, Volume 22, Issue 1, pp 1–12 | Cite as

Carbohydrate active enzyme domains from extreme thermophiles: components of a modular toolbox for lignocellulose degradation

  • Jonathan Botha
  • Eshchar Mizrachi
  • Alexander A. Myburg
  • Don A. CowanEmail author


Lignocellulosic biomass is a promising feedstock for the manufacture of biodegradable and renewable bioproducts. However, the complex lignocellulosic polymeric structure of woody tissue is difficult to access without extensive industrial pre-treatment. Enzyme processing of partly depolymerised biomass is an established technology, and there is evidence that high temperature (extremely thermophilic) lignocellulose degrading enzymes [carbohydrate active enzymes (CAZymes)] may enhance processing efficiency. However, wild-type thermophilic CAZymes will not necessarily be functionally optimal under industrial pre-treatment conditions. With recent advances in synthetic biology, it is now potentially possible to build CAZyme constructs from individual protein domains, tailored to the conditions of specific industrial processes. In this review, we identify a ‘toolbox’ of thermostable CAZyme domains from extremely thermophilic organisms and highlight recent advances in CAZyme engineering which will allow for the rational design of CAZymes tailored to specific aspects of lignocellulose digestion.


Lignocellulose CAZyme Extreme thermophiles Synthetic biology Protein domains 



The authors wish to thank the National Research Foundation (South Africa) for financial support.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare no conflict of interest.

Supplementary material

792_2017_974_MOESM1_ESM.xlsx (14 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (XLSX 13 kb)
792_2017_974_MOESM2_ESM.pdf (45 kb)
Online Resource 2 CAZyme domains identified from extremely thermophilic organisms proteomes using HMMER analysis (PDF 44 kb)
792_2017_974_MOESM3_ESM.docx (81 kb)
Supplementary material 3 (DOCX 80 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Japan KK 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jonathan Botha
    • 1
    • 2
    • 4
  • Eshchar Mizrachi
    • 2
    • 3
  • Alexander A. Myburg
    • 2
    • 3
  • Don A. Cowan
    • 1
    • 2
    • 4
    Email author
  1. 1.Department of Genetics, Centre for Microbial Ecology and GenomicsUniversity of PretoriaPretoriaSouth Africa
  2. 2.Department of GeneticsUniversity of PretoriaPretoriaSouth Africa
  3. 3.Forestry and Agricultural Biotechnology Institute (FABI)University of PretoriaPretoriaSouth Africa
  4. 4.Genomics Research Institute (GRI)University of PretoriaPretoriaSouth Africa

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