The ability to efficiently decompose lignocellulosic biomass into carbohydrates that can be used for the generation of biofuels and bioproducts has become the focus of much experimental and theoretical research. Yet, limited understanding exists on how the enzymes that catalyze the biochemical conversion of biomass, such as cellulases, interact with cellulose microfibrils. This has spurred the application of a number of high-resolution imaging techniques to obtain a glimpse of the biomolecular interactions that take place at the nanoscale. Through this approach, it has been possible to visualize the directed movement of carbohydrate binding modules, cellulase processivity, the impediments in cellulase processive motion under molecular crowding, and even nanoscale changes occurring to microfibrils as they are hydrolyzed. Along these lines, my research has contributed to the understanding of cellulase-cellulose interactions by applying single molecule fluorescence microscopy techniques to elucidate the ability of cellulases to move without catalysis along cellulose surfaces. In this presentation, I will give an overview of our experimental findings and will describe experimental approaches that can be used to determine other fundamental interactions between cellulases and cellulose. It is anticipated that understanding of the capabilities and limitations of cellulases will help design more efficient strategies for the biochemical conversion of lignocellulosic materials.
Refreshments are available in the I.K. MacKenzie Interaction Room, MacN 217, prior to the colloquium
Jose Moran-Mirabal is Assistant Professor in the Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology at McMaster University in Ontario, Canada. Jose’s research combines the strengths of micro/nanofabrication, biomolecular patterning, and high-resolution fluorescence microscopy to study targeted biomolecular interactions in vitro. Current research projects in his laboratory include the development of soft-lithography approaches that can lead to the micropatterning of suspended cellulose microfibrils for the study of cellulase-cellulose interactions through single-molecule fluorescence microscopy, the development of bench-top approaches for the production of micro and nanostructured surfaces and the development of micropatterning approaches to produce complex surface patterns of lipids and cells to study cell-lipid and cell-cell interactions.
Jose obtained a BSc. in Engineering Physics and MSc. in Biotechnology from ITESM, in Monterrey, Mexico. He then joined the group of Prof. Harold Craighead at Cornell University, where he performed research on the application of micro and nanofabricated surfaces for the study of lipid membranes. He received his PhD. in Applied Physics from Cornell University in 2007. From 2007 to 2011, he worked as Post-Doctoral and Research Associate in the Biofuels Research Laboratory at Cornell University under the supervision of Prof. Larry Walker. There, he applied quantitative fluorescence methods to the study of cellulase binding kinetics, binding reversibility, and catalysis. Jose joined the Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology at McMaster University in July 2011.