The modern transition away from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources has increased the need for sustainable biofuels. Current industrial processes use biofuels derived from cellulose and hemicellulose; however, these processes are costly and inefficient. The research team is genetically engineering Bacillus subtilis to increase the efficiency of biofuel production such that bacteria are able to directly secrete enzymes for the hydrolysis of cellulose and hemicellulose. The engineered bacteria have thus far been successful in the in vitro breakdown of xylan and cellobiose.
Limited fossil fuel sources have increased the need for sustainable biofuels. While biofuel industry uses sugars derived from cellulose and hemicellulose as carbon feedstock, the process to degrade and utilize these polymers is inefficient and expensive. The research team in the Varman lab on engineering Bacillus subtilis such that bacteria directly secrete enzymes for the hydrolysis of cellulose and hemicellulose to sugars. Compared to the wild type, B. subtilis recombinant containing SacC-glucosidase gene saw a 2.1 times increase in the secretion of glucosidase enzyme and SacC-xylanase gene saw a 2 times increase in the degradation of xylan.