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Keywords:

  • ionic liquids;
  • green solvents;
  • enzyme stability;
  • activity;
  • cellulose pretreatment;
  • glucose

Abstract

We discuss the hydrolysis of cellulose using a pure cellulase: endo-1,4-β-D-glucanase (EG) from the fungus, Aspergillus niger, in buffer, the pure ionic liquid (IL), tris-(2-hydroxyethyl)-methylammonium methylsulfate (HEMA), and various mixtures of the two at different temperatures. Steady-state fluorescence and absorbance studies were performed to monitor the stability and activity of EG using cellulose azure as the substrate. EG attains its highest activity at 45°C in buffer and denatures at ∼55°C. On the other hand, HEMA imparts substantial stability to the enzyme, permitting the activity to peak at 75°C. The relative roles of temperature, viscosity, pH, polarity, and the constituent ions of the ILs on the hydrolysis reaction are examined. It is demonstrated that pretreatment of cellulose with ILs such as BMIM Cl, MIM Cl, and HEMA results in more rapid conversion to glucose than hydrolysis with cellulose that is not pretreated. The percent conversion to glucose from pretreated cellulose is increased when the temperature is increased from 45 to 60°C. Two different ILs are used to increase the efficiency of cellulose conversion to glucose. Cellulose is pretreated with BMIM Cl. Subsequent hydrolysis of the pretreated cellulose in 10–20% solutions of HEMA in buffer provides higher yields of glucose at 60°C. Finally, to our knowledge, this is the first study dealing with a pure endoglucanase from commercial A. niger. This enzyme not only shows higher tolerance to ILs, such as HEMA, but also has enhanced thermostability in the presence of the IL. Biotechnol. Bioeng. 2012; 109:434–443. © 2011 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.