Emma R. Master

E MasterProfessor
B.Sc. (McGill), Ph.D. (UBC), Post-doc., KTH, Stockholm Sweden

Principal Investigator,  Bioproducts Research Lab
and BioZone — Centre for Applied Bioscience and Bioengineering

Room: WB420C | Tel.: 416-946-7861 | Email: emma.master@utoronto.ca


Canadian Society of Microbiologists
American Society for Microbiology

Research Interests

Biomolecular synthesis of sustainable materials and chemicals

Plants sustainably synthesize the most abundant and among the most diverse materials on Earth.  By applying recent advances in life science technology (e.g. genomics, high-throughput instrumentation for biochemical and biophysical characterizations, bioinformatics), we as a community are learning how to better harness renewable plant resources to thereby enjoy better and more sustainable lives.  At the same time, the global market for high-value biochemical and bioplastics from forest and agricultural sources is rapidly increasing, which presents new opportunities for forest and agricultural sectors that are important to Canada’s economy and support small communities across our country.

Accordingly, the aim of our research program is to harness recent advances in life science technology to discover and develop enzymes and non-catalytic proteins that can be used to sustainably synthesize high-value chemicals and polymers from renewable plant resources. Given the complexity and highly functionalized chemistry of plant macromolecules (e.g. hemicellulose and lignin), the reactive specificity of many enzymes is particularly valuable in the development of new bio-based materials that have tailored and reproducible performance.  In particular, our biological approach to developing high-value products from plants benefits from two key advantages of many bioprocesses, 1) catalytic specificity that is critical to the bioactivity of derivatized biochemicals and modification of heterogeneous plant polymers, and 2) comparatively mild reaction requirements that retain valuable properties of starting plant materials (e.g. degree of polymerization).

Selected Publications

Biochemical and structural characterization of a thermostable family GH62 α-l-arabinofuranosidase fromStreptomyces thermoviolaceus to elucidate the molecular basis for activity towards arabinoxylan. Wang W, Mai-Gisondi G, Stogios PJ, Kaur A, Xu X, Cui H, Turunen O, Savchenko A, Master ER. Appl Environ Microbiol. 2014 Jun 20. pii: AEM.00685-14. [Epub ahead of print]

Sequence diversity and gene expression analyses of expansin-related proteins in the white-rot basidiomycete,Phanerochaete carnosa. Suzuki H, Vuong TV, Gong Y, Chan K, Ho CY, Master ER, Kondo A. Fungal Genet Biol. 2014 May 28. pii: S1087-1845(14)00086-3. doi: 10.1016/j.fgb.2014.05.008. [Epub ahead of print]

Fusion of a xylan-binding module to gluco-oligosaccharide oxidase increases activity and promotes stable immobilization. Vuong TV, Master ER. PLoS One. 2014 Apr 15;9(4):e95170. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0095170. eCollection 2014.

Advancing lignocellulose bioconversion through direct assessment of enzyme action on insoluble substrates. Goacher RE, Selig MJ, Master ER. Curr Opin Biotechnol. 2014 Jun;27:123-33. doi: 10.1016/j.copbio.2014.01.009. Epub 2014 Feb 11.

Structure-function relationships in hydrophobins: probing the role of charged side chains. Lienemann M, Gandier JA, Joensuu JJ, Iwanaga A, Takatsuji Y, Haruyama T, Master E, Tenkanen M, Linder MB. Appl Environ Microbiol. 2013 Sep;79(18):5533-8. doi: 10.1128/AEM.01493-13. Epub 2013 Jul 8.

Biochemical studies of the multicopper oxidase (small laccase) from Streptomyces coelicolor using bioactive phytochemicals and site-directed mutagenesis. Sherif M, Waung D, Korbeci B, Mavisakalyan V, Flick R, Brown G, Abou-Zaid M, Yakunin AF, Master ER. Microb Biotechnol. 2013 Sep;6(5):588-97. doi: 10.1111/1751-7915.12068. Epub 2013 Jul 1.

Comparative genomics of the white-rot fungi, Phanerochaete carnosa and P. chrysosporium, to elucidate the genetic basis of the distinct wood types they colonize. Suzuki H, MacDonald J, Syed K, Salamov A, Hori C, Aerts A, Henrissat B, Wiebenga A, VanKuyk PA, Barry K, Lindquist E, LaButti K, Lapidus A, Lucas S, Coutinho P, Gong Y, Samejima M, Mahadevan R, Abou-Zaid M, de Vries RP, Igarashi K, Yadav JS, Grigoriev IV, Master ER. BMC Genomics. 2012 Sep 2;13:444. doi: 10.1186/1471-2164-13-444.

Constitutive expression of a fungal glucuronoyl esterase in Arabidopsis reveals altered cell wall composition and structure. Tsai AY, Canam T, Gorzsás A, Mellerowicz EJ, Campbell MM, Master ER. Plant Biotechnol J. 2012 Dec;10(9):1077-87. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-7652.2012.00735.x. Epub 2012 Aug 27.

Application of time-of-flight-secondary ion mass spectrometry for the detection of enzyme activity on solid wood substrates. Goacher RE, Edwards EA, Yakunin AF, Mims CA, Master ER. Anal Chem. 2012 May 15;84(10):4443-51. doi: 10.1021/ac3005346. Epub 2012 Apr 26.

Altered substrate specificity of the gluco-oligosaccharide oxidase from Acremonium strictum. Foumani M, Vuong TV, Master ER. Biotechnol Bioeng. 2011 Mar 31. doi: 10.1002/bit.23149. [Epub ahead of print]

Transcriptomic responses of the softwood-degrading white-rot fungus Phanerochaete carnosa during growth on coniferous and deciduous wood. MacDonald J, Doering M, Canam T, Gong Y, Guttman DS, Campbell MM, Master ER. Appl Environ Microbiol. 2011 May;77(10):3211-8. doi: 10.1128/AEM.02490-10. Epub 2011 Mar 25.