Phytochemistry Reviews

, Volume 9, Issue 1, pp 121–132 | Cite as

What can feruloyl esterases do for us?

  • Craig B. Faulds


The role of feruloyl esterases in plant wall development, in gut health, and in the breakdown of plant biomass for the production of bioactive phytochemicals and biofuel is covered in this review. These enzymes have potential roles in stomatal cell function and the phenolic substitutions and cross-linkages between plant cell wall components. As more plant genomes are sequenced, the role of ferulic acid and feruloyl esterases in planta may be better understood. In human and ruminal digestion, these enzymes are important to de-esterify dietary fibre, releasing hydroxycinnamates and derivatives which have been shown to have positive health effects, such as antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial activities. They are also involved in colonic fermentation where their extracellular and intracellular activities in the microbiota improve the breakdown of polysaccharides and increase microbial production of short chain fatty acids. Their specificity can also be employed to synthesize bioactive compounds for cosmetic and health applications. The enzymatic disassembly of cereal straws is greatly enhanced when feruloyl esterase activity is present, although the substrate specificity of the esterase appears to have some bearing on its optimal application. The involvement of feruloyl esterases in the improved enzymatic and microbial saccharification of cereal-derived material demonstrates a high importance for these enzymes in animal feed preparation and bioalcohol production.


Phenolic acids Human nutrition Biofuel Biomass breakdown Enzymatic synthesis 



Type-A feruloyl esterase from Aspergillus niger


Type-B feruloyl esterase from Aspergillus niger


Caffeic acid


Chlorogenic acid


Cross-linked enzyme aggregate


Diferulic acid




Ferulic acid


Feruloyl esterase


Glycoside hydrolase family 10


Glycoside hydrolase family 11


Hydroxycinnamic acids


One thousand Dalton units


Low-density lipoprotein


Methyl caffeate


Methyl ferulate


Methyl p-coumarate


Methyl sinapate


p-Coumaric acid


Sinapic acid


Type-C feruloyl esterase from Sporotrichum thermosporum


Type-C feruloyl esterase from Talaromyces stipitatus


Wheat bran


Wheat straw



The Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), UK, is kindly thanked for financial support.


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© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute of Food Research, Norwich Research ParkColneyUK
  2. 2.Biotechnology for Lignocellulosic Biomass Research Group, Centro de Investigaciones Biológicas (CSIC)MadridSpain

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