Functional Validation of Two Fungal Subfamilies in Carbohydrate Esterase Family 1 by Biochemical Characterization of Esterases From Uncharacterized Branches

Xinxin Li, Kelli Griffin, Sandra Langeveld, Matthias Frommhagen, Emilie N Underlin, Mirjam A Kabel, Ronald P de Vries, Adiphol Dilokpimol

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

16 Citations (Scopus)


The fungal members of Carbohydrate Esterase family 1 (CE1) from the CAZy database include both acetyl xylan esterases (AXEs) and feruloyl esterases (FAEs). AXEs and FAEs are essential auxiliary enzymes to unlock the full potential of feedstock. They are being used in many biotechnology applications including food and feed, pulp and paper, and biomass valorization. AXEs catalyze the hydrolysis of acetyl group from xylan, while FAEs release ferulic and other hydroxycinnamic acids from xylan and pectin. Previously, we reported a phylogenetic analysis for the fungal members of CE1, establishing five subfamilies (CE1_SF1-SF5). Currently, the characterized AXEs are in the subfamily CE1_SF1, whereas CE1_SF2 contains mainly characterized FAEs. These two subfamilies are more related to each other than to the other subfamilies and are predicted to have evolved from a common ancestor, but target substrates with a different molecular structure. In this study, four ascomycete enzymes from CE1_SF1 and SF2 were heterologously produced in Pichia pastoris and characterized with respect to their biochemical properties and substrate preference toward different model and plant biomass substrates. The selected enzymes from CE1_SF1 only exhibited AXE activity, whereas the one from CE1_SF2 possessed dual FAE/AXE activity. This dual activity enzyme also showed broad substrate specificity toward model substrates for FAE activity and efficiently released both acetic acid and ferulic acid (∼50%) from wheat arabinoxylan and wheat bran which was pre-treated with a commercial xylanase. These fungal AXEs and FAEs also showed promising biochemical properties, e.g., high stability over a wide pH range and retaining more than 80% of their residual activity at pH 6.0-9.0. These newly characterized fungal AXEs and FAEs from CE1 have high potential for biotechnological applications. In particular as an additional ingredient for enzyme cocktails to remove the ester-linked decorations which enables access for the backbone degrading enzymes. Among these novel enzymes, the dual FAE/AXE activity enzyme also supports the evolutionary relationship of CE1_SF1 and SF2.

Original languageEnglish
Article number694
JournalFrontiers in Bioengineering and Biotechnology
Publication statusPublished - 26 Jun 2020
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


  • CAZy subfamilies
  • acetyl xylan esterase
  • carbohydrate esterase
  • ferulic acid
  • feruloyl esterase
  • fungi
  • plant biomass degradation


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