The aim of this proposed Marie Curie project is to investigate lignin vs hemicellulose acylation/deacylation in different non-woody angiosperms in connection with plant cell-wall structure and degradability. The focus will be on the use of esterases to remove acylating groups and to cleave the lignin-carbohydrate interface. Such an approach would help to develop a ‘white biotechnological’ process to enzymatically pretreat plant biomass for downstream applications, such as biofuel and the preparation of platform chemicals, while retaining the natural structures of the three main components of lignocellulosic material: cellulose, hemicellulose and lignin. The approach will be multidisciplinary in as much as enzymology will be coupled with 2D-NMR analysis, microbiology, molecular biology, and structural biology to understand the interaction between enzyme and substrate. Interactions with companies, economists and social scientists will be sought to develop research in relation to market and societal drivers. Further training in project management and proposal preparation will be undertaken allowing the applicant to progress his scientific career from leading small national projects and partner-specific tasks towards workpackage leadership and coordination of larger multidisciplinary projects. Furthermore, a workshop designed to bring together world-leading scientists in the science and exploitation of lignin and plant polysaccharides is planned to be run by the applicant towards the end of the project.
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