OIST Mini Symposium "Unraveling the mysteries of cellulose"
"Unraveling the mysteries of cellulose: From biosynthesis & biological diversity to biomaterials"
Cellulose is the most abundant and renewable carbohydrate polymer. It represents a “green” substitute to fossil fuels for the design and production of a whole range of sustainable applications beneficial to our modern society. However, despite the importance of cellulose for mankind and recent research progress on cellulose metabolism, the details of the molecular mechanisms underlying the biosynthesis of the polymer remain poorly understood. Cellulose biodegradation has been extensively studied e.g. for biofuel applications based on plant biomass conversion. Research progress on biosynthesis has been much slower, largely because of the inherent instability of the cellulose synthase complexes (CSC) and the complexity of the associated molecular processes.
Recently, catalytically active subunits of a bacterial CSC were functionally expressed and assembled (Morgan et al. 2013 Nature 493: 181- 186). This enabled the determination of the crystallographic structure a cellulose synthase. Soon after, biochemical approaches were applied to the same enzyme to gain further knowledge on its structure/function relationship (Omadjela et al. 2013 PNAS 110: 17856-17861). This was accomplished through a new collaboration between a membrane protein structural biologist (Dr. Zimmer) and a cell wall biochemist (Prof. Bulone), the co-organizer of this symposium. With this meeting, we aim at reviewing the recent breakthroughs in cellulose biosynthesis by gathering world-class experts in this field. In addition to bringing complementary expertise together on the same focused area, the symposium will contribute to the establishment of novel expanded collaborations for unraveling the holy grail of cellulose formation.
Cellulose has a rather simple chemical structure as being a linear homopolymer of D-glucose moieties. However, it forms complex hierarchical structures that can be exploited and manipulated to devise performance materials. Cellulose molecules spun from CSC assemble into crystalline microfibrils that hold structural variations at different dimensional scales (e.g. crystalline phases, crystal size and fibril shape). These variations are both physically and biologically important, as they determine the physico-chemical properties of the overall structure. They tend to be species-specific, thus reflecting biological diversity. Our current knowledge on cellulose structure and properties arises essentially from studies motivated by industrial demands. But the detailed mechanisms of cellulose crystallization remain elusive as well as the biological significance of the structural variations of cellulose. In addition to discussing advances on cellulose biosynthesis, the proposed symposium will explore potential new developments in the biomaterials area by involving experts in cellulose-based supramolecular assemblies.
Thus, by combining experts from the biochemical and biomaterials fields, the symposium will nurture new collaborations at the interface of complementary disciplines to better understand cellulose formation, assembly and properties of cellulose hierarchical structures. This fundamental knowledge is of great relevance to many industrial sectors.
Daniel Cosgrove, Pennsylvania State University, USA
Vincent Bulone, KTH Royal Institute of Technology, Sweden
Jochen Zimmer, University of Virginia, USA
Taku Demura, NAIST, Japan
Ingo Burgert, ETH Zürich, Switzerland
Ute Römling, Karolinska Institute, Sweden
Tomoya Imai, RISH, Japan
Laigeng Li, Chinese Academy of Sciences, China
Keisuke Nakashima, OIST
(This list is subject to change. Thank you in advance for your understanding.)
Noriyuki Satoh, Marine Genomics Unit, OIST
Vincent Bulone, Director of the Division of Glycoscience, KTH Royal Institute of Technology, Sweden
For the latest program, please see attachment*. (program as of 2015/4/16)
(The program is subject to change. Thank you in advance for your understanding.)
*OIST internal memo: If viewing from TIDA, please view this event on https://groups.oist.jp/cws/event/oist-mini-symposium-unraveling-mysteries-cellulose to open attachment.