Uncovering Genetic Underpinnings of Wood Digestion

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Wood is made of three tightly intertwined compounds; taking it apart is a challenge, and termites are among the few known animals that can do it. Professor Jared Leadbetter led a team of researchers from other universities, private industry, and the Department of Energy (DOE) in uncovering the genetic underpinnings and the roles of bacteria in wood digestion by "higher termites." These insects abound in tropical and subtropical ecosystems. What the team found, says Leadbetter, is "a comprehensive set of blueprints for the bacteria that help dismantle wood." This has recently become a focus of interest for those interested in developing an effective, industrial method to convert wood into ethanol. [Caltech Press Release]

Tags: research highlights ESE Jared Leadbetter