Lignin depolymerization generates a mixture of numerous compounds that are difficult to separate cost-effectively. To address this heterogeneity issue, microbes have been employed to ‘biologically funnel’ a broad range of compounds present in depolymerized lignin into common central metabolites that can be converted into a single desirable product. Because the composition of depolymerized lignin varies significantly with the type of biomass and the depolymerization method, microbes should be selected and engineered by considering this compositional variation. An ideal microbe must efficiently metabolize all relevant lignin-derived compounds regardless of the compositional variation of feedstocks, but discovering or developing such a perfect microbe is very challenging. Instead, developing multiple tailored microbes to tolerate a given mixture of lignin-derived compounds and to convert most of these into a target product is more practical. This review summarizes recent progress toward the development of such microbes for lignin valorization and offers future directions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)23-29
Number of pages7
JournalCurrent Opinion in Chemical Biology
StatePublished - Dec 2020


  • Aromatic metabolism
  • Bioconversion
  • Lignin valorization
  • Metabolic engineering
  • Renewable feedstock


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