Wood-Boring Gribbles Intrigue Researchers
Tiny wood borers known colloquially as gribbles make their own enzymes and use them to eat through docks in harbor towns, earning enmity from fishermen all around the world.
Now, researchers from the
The trouble with gribbles - that they can break down biomass into sugars even in harsh environments - might become the great thing about gribbles, as the industry searches for enzymes that can thrive in salt-rich, high-solids settings.
Gribbles (scientific name: Limnoria quadripunctata) are 1 to 3 millimeters long and have an organ called the hepatopancreas that extends almost the entire length of their bodies. This organ is where gribbles make their own enzymes. In other words, they don't rely, as termites, cows, and humans do, on the organisms that find their way into their stomachs to aid in digesting the food they eat.
The gribble enzymes also hold promise of tolerating salts better than other enzymes, likely due to the fact they evolved in a marine environment. These unique properties could teach biomass researchers how to make better enzymes that operate in a high-solids industrial environment, breaking biomass down more effectively into sugars, which can then be converted into ethanol or a renewable fuel to replace gasoline, diesel, or jet fuel.
And that could make the conversion of biomass to fuel both quicker and cheaper, say biofuels researchers from NREL, the
Biofuels Industry Needs Super-Tough Enzymes
The biofuels industry needs tough, efficient enzymes that are tolerant of harsh industrial conditions. NREL Senior Scientist
Enzymes are typically harvested from fungi because fungi are responsible for most of the biomass degradation in nature. Gribbles live in inner-tidal zones, mango groves, rainforests, harbors, and coves, devouring wood where they find it.
The little wood borers drew extra attention from biomass researchers after scientists from the Universities of
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