Degradation of cotton cellulose by Trichoderma reesei endoglucanase I (EGI) and cellobiohydrolase II (CBHII) was investigated by analyzing the insoluble cellulose fragments remaining after enzymatic hydrolysis. Changes in the molecular-size distribution of cellulose after attack by EGI, alone and in combination with CBHII, were determined by size exclusion chromatography of the tricarbanilate derivatives. Cotton cellulose incubated with EGI exhibited a single major peak, which with time shifted to progressively lower degrees of polymerization (DP; number of glucosyl residues per cellulose chain). In the later stages of degradation (8 days), this peak was eventually centered over a DP of 200 to 300 and was accompanied by a second peak (DP, (apprx=)15); a final weight loss of 34% was observed. Although CBHII solubilized approximately 40% of bacterial microcrystalline cellulose, the cellobiohydrolase did not depolymerize or significantly hydrolyze native cotton cellulose. Furthermore, molecular-size distributions of cellulose incubated with EGI together with CBHII did not differ from those attacked solely by EGI. However, a synergistic effect was observed in the reducing-sugar production by the cellulase mixture. From these results we conclude that EGI of T. reesei degrades cotton cellulose by selectively cleaving through the microfibrils at the amorphous sites, whereas CBHII releases soluble sugars from the EGI-degraded cotton cellulose and from the more crystalline bacterial microcrystalline cellulose
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