• Cellulase;
  • High-throughput screening;
  • para-Hydroxybenzoic acid hydrazide;
  • Pichia pastoris;
  • Reducing sugar


The exploitation of renewable resources for the production of biofuels relies on efficient processes for the enzymatic hydrolysis of lignocellulosic materials. The development of enzymes and strains for these processes requires reliable and fast activity-based screening assays. Additionally, these assays are also required to operate on the microscale and on the high-throughput level. Herein, we report the development of a highly sensitive reducing-sugar assay in a 96-well microplate screening format. The assay is based on the formation of osazones from reducing sugars and para-hydroxybenzoic acid hydrazide. By using this sensitive assay, the enzyme loads and conversion times during lignocellulose hydrolysis can be reduced, thus allowing higher throughput. The assay is about five times more sensitive than the widely applied dinitrosalicylic acid based assay and can reliably detect reducing sugars down to 10 μM. The assay-specific variation over one microplate was determined for three different lignocellulolytic enzymes and ranges from 2 to 8%. Furthermore, the assay was combined with a microscale cultivation procedure for the activity-based screening of Pichia pastoris strains expressing functional Thermomyces lanuginosus xylanase A, Trichoderma reesei β-mannanase, or T. reesei cellobiohydrolase 2.