Different biological approaches, highlighting the use of laccases, have been developed as environmentally friendly alternatives for improving the saccharification and fermentation stages of steam-pretreated lignocellulosic biomass. This work evaluates the use of a novel bacterial laccase (MetZyme) for enhancing the hydrolysability and fermentability of steam-exploded wheat straw. When the water insoluble solids (WIS) fraction was treated with laccase or alkali alone, a modest increase of about 5% in the sugar recovery yield (glucose and xylose) was observed in both treatments. Interestingly, the combination of alkali extraction and laccase treatment boosted enzymatic hydrolysis, increasing the glucose and xylose concentration in the hydrolysate by 21% and 30%, respectively. With regards to the fermentation stage, the whole pretreated slurry was subjected to laccase treatment, lowering the phenol content by up to 21%. This reduction allowed us to improve the fermentation performance of the thermotolerant yeast Kluyveromyces marxianus
CECT 10875 during a simultaneous saccharification and fermentation (SSF) process. Hence, a shorter adaptation period and an increase in the cell viability—measured in terms of colony forming units (CFU/mL)—could be observed in laccase-treated slurries. These differences were even more evident when a presaccharification step was performed prior to SSF. Novel biocatalysts such as the bacterial laccase presented in this work could play a key role in the implementation of a cost-effective technology in future biorefineries.
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