Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology

, Volume 101, Issue 6, pp 2575–2588 | Cite as

Sequential lignin depolymerization by combination of biocatalytic and formic acid/formate treatment steps

  • Christoph A. GasserEmail author
  • Monika Čvančarová
  • Erik M. Ammann
  • Andreas Schäffer
  • Patrick Shahgaldian
  • Philippe F.-X. Corvini
Environmental biotechnology


Lignin, a complex three-dimensional amorphous polymer, is considered to be a potential natural renewable resource for the production of low-molecular-weight aromatic compounds. In the present study, a novel sequential lignin treatment method consisting of a biocatalytic oxidation step followed by a formic acid-induced lignin depolymerization step was developed and optimized using response surface methodology. The biocatalytic step employed a laccase mediator system using the redox mediator 1-hydroxybenzotriazole. Laccases were immobilized on superparamagnetic nanoparticles using a sorption-assisted surface conjugation method allowing easy separation and reuse of the biocatalysts after treatment. Under optimized conditions, as much as 45 wt% of lignin could be solubilized either in aqueous solution after the first treatment or in ethyl acetate after the second (chemical) treatment. The solubilized products were found to be mainly low-molecular-weight aromatic monomers and oligomers. The process might be used for the production of low-molecular-weight soluble aromatic products that can be purified and/or upgraded applying further downstream processes.


Lignin Laccase Biocatalysis Depolymerization Formic acid 



The support of the Commission for Technology and Innovation of the Swiss Federal Office for Professional Education and Technology (grant PFNM-NM 9632.1), the Swiss National Science Foundation National Research Program 66 (project 4066–136686), ECO-INNOVERA (project IPTOSS), and the Swiss Federal Office for the Environment (FOEN, contract number UTF 410.06.12/IDM 2006.02423.369) is gratefully acknowledged. Special thanks are due to GreenValue SA for providing the lignin used in this study.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Human and animal rights

This article does not contain any studies with human participants or animals performed by any of the authors.

Supplementary material

253_2016_8015_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (2.7 mb)
ESM 1 (PDF 2747 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Christoph A. Gasser
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Monika Čvančarová
    • 1
  • Erik M. Ammann
    • 1
  • Andreas Schäffer
    • 2
    • 3
  • Patrick Shahgaldian
    • 4
  • Philippe F.-X. Corvini
    • 1
    • 3
  1. 1.Institute for Ecopreneurship, School of Life SciencesUniversity of Applied Sciences and Arts Northwestern SwitzerlandMuttenzSwitzerland
  2. 2.Institute for Environmental ResearchRWTH AachenAachenGermany
  3. 3.State Key Laboratory of Pollution Control and Resource Reuse, School of the EnvironmentNanjing University Xianlin CampusNanjingChina
  4. 4.Institute for Chemistry and Bioanalytics, School of Life SciencesUniversity of Applied Sciences and Arts Northwestern SwitzerlandMuttenzSwitzerland

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