Lignocellulosic polysaccharides and lignin degradation by wood decay fungi: the relevance of nonenzymatic Fenton-based reactions

  • Valdeir Arantes
  • Adriane M. F. Milagres
  • Timothy R. Filley
  • Barry Goodell
Original Paper


The brown rot fungus Wolfiporia cocos and the selective white rot fungus Perenniporia medulla-panis produce peptides and phenolate-derivative compounds as low molecular weight Fe3+-reductants. Phenolates were the major compounds with Fe3+-reducing activity in both fungi and displayed Fe3+-reducing activity at pH 2.0 and 4.5 in the absence and presence of oxalic acid. The chemical structures of these compounds were identified. Together with Fe3+ and H2O2 (mediated Fenton reaction) they produced oxygen radicals that oxidized lignocellulosic polysaccharides and lignin extensively in vitro under conditions similar to those found in vivo. These results indicate that, in addition to the extensively studied Gloeophyllum trabeum—a model brown rot fungus—other brown rot fungi as well as selective white rot fungi, possess the means to promote Fenton chemistry to degrade cellulose and hemicellulose, and to modify lignin. Moreover, new information is provided, particularly regarding how lignin is attacked, and either repolymerized or solubilized depending on the type of fungal attack, and suggests a new pathway for selective white rot degradation of wood. The importance of Fenton reactions mediated by phenolates operating separately or synergistically with carbohydrate-degrading enzymes in brown rot fungi, and lignin-modifying enzymes in white rot fungi is discussed. This research improves our understanding of natural processes in carbon cycling in the environment, which may enable the exploration of novel methods for bioconversion of lignocellulose in the production of biofuels or polymers, in addition to the development of new and better ways to protect wood from degradation by microorganisms.


Lignocellulose Brown rot fungi White rot fungi Biodegradation Fenton reaction Cellulose Lignin Iron reducing activity 



This research was supported by the State of São Paulo Research Foundation (FAPESP, Brazil) Grant 04/12080-0 and 07/00993-9. V.A. is also grateful to the Coordination for the Improvement of Higher Level Personnel (CAPES-Brazil) Grant No. 5192/06-4 for the financial support for his stay at the Sustainable Biomaterials and Bioenergy/Wood Science Laboratories at the University of Maine, Orono-ME/USA and we thank the University of Maine Wood Utilization Research (WUR) program for laboratory support.


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Copyright information

© Society for Industrial Microbiology 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Valdeir Arantes
    • 1
  • Adriane M. F. Milagres
    • 2
  • Timothy R. Filley
    • 3
  • Barry Goodell
    • 4
  1. 1.Forestry Products Biotechnology/Bioenergy Group, Department of Wood Science, Faculty of ForestryUniversity of British ColumbiaVancouverCanada
  2. 2.Department of Biotechnology, Escola de Engenharia de LorenaUniversity of São PauloLoreaBrazil
  3. 3.Department of Earth and Atmospheric SciencesPurdue UniversityWest LafayetteUSA
  4. 4.Sustainable Biomaterials and Bioenergy (SFR)/Wood ScienceUniversity of MaineOronoUSA

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