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Lehigh University logo

Elizabeth Weiler

Designer enzymes for broad-spectrum digestion of polysaccharides

Department: Bioengineering
Advisor: Bryan Berger

View: UGRS Research Poster (PDF)

Macroalgae represents a promising source of fermentable carbohydrates for use in the production of energy efficient biofuel. The primary carbohydrate in brown algae is the uronic acid-containing alginate, whereas green algae contains a significant amount of glucuronan. A necessary step in the conversion of these polyuronides to useful bioproducts is saccharification, which can be achieved by enzymatic or chemical degradation. Polysaccharide lyases are a class of enzymes which cleave uronic-acid containing glycans via a β-elimination mechanism, acting both endo- and exolytically on their substrates. We characterized a putative alginate lyase from Stenotrophomonas maltophilia and designed an engineered variant that, in addition to cleaving alginate-based substrates, displays exolytic glucuronan activity. To our knowledge this is the first polysaccharide lyase to act exolytically on glucuronan and is an attractive candidate for the broad-spectrum digestion of polyuronides into fermentable monomers.

About Elizabeth Weiler:
Elizabeth Weiler, from Downingtown, Pennsylvania, is a senior bioengineering student as well as a member of the cross country and track and field teams here at Lehigh.  Outside of  academics and athletics, she enjoys reading, hiking, and spending time with family and friends. She has enjoyed her research experience in the biochemical and environmental engineering and hopes to further her education in these fields next year in graduate school.