The BioEnergy Science Center (BESC) has focused on understanding lignocellulosic biomass formation and deconstruction en route to the production of biofuels. This deeper understanding of plant cell wall structure and the biological mechanism for efficient depolymerization and fermentation was necessary to provide the underpinnings to “overcome biomass recalcitrance” – the central theme of BESC.
This special issue of Biotechnology for Biofuels is being prepared after a decade of BESC research. Among its over two dozen articles, it features both review articles as well as current topical presentations illustrative of current BESC research. Broader papers include an overview of the ten-years of BESC research and its mission and top accomplishments (Gilna et al.), as well as articles on the insights gained regarding the role and formation of xylan (Urbanowicz et al.).
The targeted research articles cover the range of BESC research. For example, elucidation of the functions of plant biosynthesis genes, and extension from the laboratory to successful field testing of improved plant lines (Kumar et al., Johnson et al.; Macaya-Sanz et al.), are included in this special issue. The impacts of altered plant cell wall composition on structure and conversion are featured in several articles (Harman-Ware et al.; Ding et al.; Kumar et al.). Examples of studies of hydrolytic enzymes (e.g., cellulase) are shown for thermophiles (Brunecky et al.) and oxidative enzymes (Kruer-Zerhusen et al.) are also included. The drive for improved conversion utilizing consolidated bioprocessing examines the impacts of toxicity (Wilbanks et al.) and high biomass loadings (Verbeke et al.). There are also examples of metabolic engineering (Zheng et al.; Eminoglu et al.) as well as ‘omic’ studies (Sander et al.).
Most of these contributions draw on participants from multiple BESC partner institutions, which showcases the collaborative impacts of a multi-institutional center, critical for accelerating research in bioenergy. Over the course of its decade long tenure, BESC researchers contributed 945 papers in peer reviewed journals and inspired countless beginning- and early-career scientists to enter the bioenergy field.
Edited by Edward Bayer, Brian Davison and Michael Himmel