The ancient phylum is composed of phylogenetically and physiologically diverse bacteria that help Earth's ecosystems function. As free-living organisms and symbionts of herbivorous animals, contribute to the global carbon cycle through the breakdown of plant biomass. In addition, they mediate community dynamics as producers of small molecules with diverse biological activities. Together, the evolution of high cellulolytic ability and diverse chemistry, shaped by their ecological roles in nature, make a promising group for the bioenergy industry. Specifically, their enzymes can contribute to industrial-scale breakdown of cellulosic plant biomass into simple sugars that can then be converted into biofuels. Furthermore, harnessing their ability to biosynthesize a range of small molecules has potential for the production of specialty biofuels.


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