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Lignin and lignin components of woody biomass have been identified as an attractive alternative to fossil fuels. However, the complex composition of this plant polymer is one of the drawbacks that limits its exploitation. Biocatalysis of lignin to produce platform chemicals has been receiving great attention as it presents a sustainable approach for lignin valorisation. Aligned with this area of research, in the present study we have applied ultra-high-resolution Fourier transform ion cyclotron resonance mass spectrometry (FT-ICR MS) to identify the preferred lignin substrates of a ligninolytic enzyme, a laccase produced by the terrestrial fungus Trametes versicolor. A commercial lignin was incubated with the laccase and acetosyringone (a laccase mediator) for up to 168 h and direct infusion electrospray FT-ICR MS enabled the identification of thousands of molecular species present in the complex lignin sample at different incubation time points. Significant changes in the chemical composition of lignin were detected upon laccase treatment, which resulted in a decrease in the molecular mass distribution of assigned species, consistent with laccase lytic activity. This reduction was predominantly in species classified as lignin-like (based on elemental ratios) and polymeric in nature (>400 Da). Of particular note was a fall in the number of species assigned containing sulfur. Changes in the chemical composition/structure of the lignin polymer were supported by FT-IR spectroscopy. We propose the use of FT-ICR MS as a rapid and efficient technique to support the biotechnological valorisation of lignin as well as the development and optimization of laccase-mediator systems for treating complex mixtures.
- FT-ICR MS
- complex mixture
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Characterisation of enzymatic processing of commercial (Kraft) lignin by high resolution FT-ICR mass spectrometry - Dataset.