Substrate-Related Factors Affecting Enzymatic Saccharification of Lignocelluloses: Our Recent Understanding

Shao Yuan Leu, J. Y. Zhu

Research output: Journal article publicationReview articleAcademic researchpeer-review

278 Citations (Scopus)


Enzymatic saccharification of cellulose is a key step in conversion of plant biomass to advanced biofuel and chemicals. Many substrate-related factors affect saccharification. Rather than examining the role of each individual factor on overall saccharification efficiency, this study examined how each factor affects the three basic processes of a heterogeneous biochemistry reaction: (1) substrate accessibility to cellulose-the roles of component removal and size reduction by pretreatments, (2) substrate and cellulase reactivity limited by component inhibition, and (3) reaction conditions-substrate-specific optimization. Our in-depth analysis of published literature work, especially those published in the last 5 years, explained and reconciled some of the conflicting results in literature, especially the relative importance of hemicellulose vs. lignin removal and substrate size reduction on enzymatic saccharification of lignocelluloses. We concluded that hemicellulose removal is more important than lignin removal for creating cellulase accessible pores. Lignin removal is important when alkaline-based pretreatment is used with limited hemicellulose removal. Partial delignification is needed to achieve satisfactory saccharification of lignocelluloses with high lignin content, such as softwood species. Rather than using passive approaches, such as washing and additives, controlling pretreatment or hydrolysis conditions, such as pH, to modify lignin surface properties can be more efficient for reducing or eliminating lignin inhibition to cellulase, leading to improved lignocellulose saccharification.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)405-415
Number of pages11
JournalBioenergy Research
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • Accessibility
  • Biofuel and biorefinery
  • Cellulase enzymes
  • Enzymatic hydrolysis/saccharification
  • Lignin
  • Lignocelluloses
  • Pretreatment

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment
  • Agronomy and Crop Science
  • Energy (miscellaneous)


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