Banner for LabNotes
From Lab Notes
Contact Information
Forest Products Laboratory
One Gifford Pinchot Drive
Madison, WI 53726-2398
Phone: (608) 231-9200
Fax: (608) 231-9592


You are here: FPL Home  / Information  / Employees Directory  / Profile

Franz St. John
Franz St. John

Franz St. John

Institute for Microbial and Biochemical Sciences
Unit: FPL-4712
Research Microbiologist

Phone: 608-231-9438

Current Research

Research in my laboratory focuses on the interface between the physical disruption and the subsequent enzyme hydrolysis stages necessary to prepare woody biomass for microbial conversion to biofuels and value-added products. Our guiding hypothesis is that through the development of better, more efficient enzyme systems, it may be possible to limit the chemical and physical input required during the initial disruption stage resulting in a reduced cost for microbial bioconversions of this important renewable resource.In this research our primary concern is the second most abundant but chemically most complex biomass polymer, the β-1,4 linked xylose polysaccharide 4-O-methyl glucuronoarabinoxylan (xylan). This polymer is important in that it associates through covalent attachment to interconnect the lignified cell wall with the rigid cellulose fibrils. The pretreatment process may be augmented with enzymes that target the specific linkages connecting lignin and xylan thereby facilitating the secondary cellulolytic enzyme processing and potentially limiting the initial physical pretreatment costs. Our research applies bacteriology, biochemistry, bioinformatic resources as well as structural biology to identify proteins which may function optimally to degrade minimally processed lignocellulosic biomass.A second goal of my laboratory is the development of second generation bacterial biocatalysts. Initial efforts will focus on defining and characterizing Gram positive bacterial characteristics that show promise in bioconversion processes. Examples of such characteristics include robust protein secretion and the potential of many Gram positive bacteria to transport complex oligosaccharides. Understanding how such physiological features function and how they can be employed in bacterial biocatalysts is of great value to the development of engineered biocatalyst.

Research Interest

  • Microbiology and enzymology of lignocellulose bioconversion
  • X-ray crystallographic protein structure studies of enzymes involved in biomass degradation
  • Development of second generation bacterial biocatalysts with enhanced capabilities of protein secretion and complex carbohydrate utilization


  • University of Maryland, Baltimore, Postdoctoral Fellowship X-ray Crystallography Core Facility , 2009
  • University of Florida, Ph.D. Microbiology and Cell Science , 2006
  • University of Florida, Gainesville, B.S. University of Florida, Gainesville , 1999

Professional Organizations

  • American Society for Microbiology, Member

Below are the 24 US Forest Service publications sorted by year. You may re-sort the list by: Title, Date Posted, Category, Publication or Year.

Publication Year: 2021
Title: A New Subfamily of Glycoside Hydrolase Family 30 with Strict Xylobiohydrolase Function
Source: Frontiers in Molecular Biosciences
Author(s) Crooks, Casey ; Bechle, Nathan J.; St John, Franz J.
Year: 2021   view abstract, download publication »
Publication Year: 2020
Title: CaXyn30B from the solventogenic bacterium Clostridium acetobutylicum is a glucuronic acid-dependent endoxylanase
Source: BMC Research Notes. 13(1): 2. 6 p.
Author(s) Crooks, Casey ; Long, Liangkun ; St John, Franz J.
Year: 2020   view abstract, download publication »
Title: Characterization and functional analysis of two novel thermotolerant α-l-arabinofuranosidases belonging to glycoside hydrolase family 51 from Thielavia terrestris and family 62 from Eupenicillium parvum
Source: Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology. 104(20): 8719-8733.
Author(s) Long, Liangkun ; Sun, Lu ; Lin, Qunying ; Ding, Shaojun ; St John, Franz J.
Year: 2020   view abstract, download publication »
Title: Kinetic characterization and structure analysis of an altered polyol dehydrogenase with d ‐lactate dehydrogenase activity
Source: Protein Science. 29(12): 2387-2397.
Author(s) Chauliac, Diane ; Wang, Qingzhao ; St. John, Franz J.; Jones, Grace ; Hurlbert, Jason C.; Ingram, Lonnie O.; Shanmugam, Keelnatham T.
Year: 2020   view abstract, download publication »
Publication Year: 2019
Title: Xylanase pretreatment of wood fibers for producing cellulose nanofibrils: a comparison of different enzyme preparations
Source: Cellulose. 26(1): 543-555.
Author(s) Zhou, Haifeng ; St. John, Franz ; Zhu, J. Y.
Year: 2019   view abstract, download publication »
Publication Year: 2018
Title: A plasmid borne, functionally novel glycoside hydrolase family 30 subfamily 8 endoxylanase from solventogenic Clostridium
Source: Biochemical Journal. 475(9): 1533-1551.
Author(s) St John, Franz J.; Dietrich, Diane ; Crooks, Casey ; Balogun, Peter ; de Serrano, Vesna ; Pozharski, Edwin ; Smith, James Kennon; Bales, Elizabeth ; Hurlbert, Jason
Year: 2018   view abstract, download publication »
Publication Year: 2017
Title: GH115 α-glucuronidase and GH11 xylanase from Paenibacillus sp. JDR-2: potential roles in processing glucuronoxylans
Source: Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology. 101(4): 1465-1476.
Author(s) Rhee, Mun Su; Sawhney, Neha ; Kim, Young Sik; Rhee, Hyun Jee; Hurlbert, Jason C.; St. John, Franz J.; Nong, Guang ; Rice, John D.; Preston, James F.
Year: 2017   view abstract, download publication »
Title: GH30 glucuronoxylan-specific xylanase from Streptomyces turgidiscabies C56
Source: Applied and Environmental Microbiology. 84(4): 1-13.
Author(s) Maehara, Tomoko ; Yagi, Haruka ; Sato, Tomoko ; Ohnishi-Kameyama, Mayumi ; Fujimoto, Zui ; Kamino, Kei ; Kitamura, Yoshiaki ; St. John, Franz ; Yaoi, Katsuro ; Kaneko, Satoshi
Year: 2017   view abstract, download publication »
Title: Xylanase 30 A from Clostridium thermocellum functions as a glucuronoxylan xylanohydrolase
Source: Journal of Molecular Catalysis B: Enzymatic. 1-7.
Author(s) St John, Franz J.; Crooks, Casey; Dietrich, Diane; Hurlbert, Jason
Year: 2017   view abstract, download publication »
Publication Year: 2016
Title: A 1,3-1,4-β-glucan utilization regulon in Paenibacillus sp. strain JDR-2
Source: Applied and Environmental Microbiology, 82. pp. 1789 –1798
Author(s) Chow, Virginia; Kim, Young Sik; Rhee, Mun Su; Sawhney, Neha; St. John, Franz J.; Nong, Guang; Rice, John D.; Preston, James F.
Year: 2016   view abstract, download publication »
Title: Genomic and transcriptomic analysis of carbohydrate utilization by Paenibacillus sp. JDR-2: systems for bioprocessing plant polysaccharides
Source: BMC Genomics, Vol. 17(1).
Author(s) Sawhney, Neha; Crooks, Casey; Chow, Virginia; Preston, James F.; St. John, Franz
Year: 2016   view abstract, download publication »
Title: Glycosyl Hydrolase Xylanases, Compositions and Methods of Use for Efficient Hydrolysis and Processing of Xylan
Source: U.S. Patent
Author(s) St. John, Franz; Dietrich, Diane; Crooks, Casey
Year: 2016   view abstract, download publication »
Publication Year: 2014
Title: A novel member of glycoside hydrolase family 30 subfamily 8 with altered substrate specificity
Source: Acta Crystallographica Section D Biological Crystallography
Author(s) St John, Franz J.; Dietrich, Diane; Crooks, Casey; Pozharski, Edwin; González, Javier M.; Bales, Elizabeth; Smith, Kennon; Hurlbert, Jason C.
Year: 2014   view abstract, download publication »
Title: Analysis of the Phlebiopsis gigantea Genome, Transcriptome and Secretome Provides Insight into Its Pioneer Colonization Strategies of Wood
Source: PLOS Genet Volume 10, Number 12, December 2014; 20 p.
Author(s) Hori, Chiaki; Ishida, Takuya; Igarashi, Kiyohiko; Samejima, Masahiro; Suzuki, Hitoshi; Master, Emma; Ferreira, Patricia; Ruiz-Duenas, Francisco J.; Held, Benjamin; Canessa, Paulo; Larrondo, Luis F.; Schmoll, Monika; Druzhinina, Irina S.; Kubicek, Christian P.; Gaskell, Jill A.; Kersten, Phil; St. John, Franz; Glasner, Jeremy; Sabat, Grzegorz; Bondurant, Sandra Splinter; Syed, Khajamohiddin; Yadav, Jagjit; Mgbeahuruike, Anthony C.; Kovalchuk, Andriy; Asiegbu, Fred O.; Lackner, Gerald; Hoffmeister, Dirk; Recoret, Jorge; Gutierrez, Ana; Sun, Hui; Lindquist, Erika; Barry, Kerrie; Riley, Robert; Grigoriev, Igor V.; Henrissat, Bernard; Kues, Ursula; Berka, Randy M.; Martinez, Angel T.; Covert, Sarah F.; Blanchette, Robert A.; Cullen, Daniel
Year: 2014   view abstract, download publication »
Title: Engineering the Xylan Utilization System in Bacillus subtilis for Production of Acidic Xylooligosaccharides
Source: Applied and Environmental Microbiology, February 2014 Volume 80 Number 3, 2014; p.917–927.
Author(s) Rhee, Mun Su; Wei, Lusha; Sawhney, Neha; Rice, John D.; St. John, Franz J.; Hurlbert, Jason C.; Preston, James F.
Year: 2014   view abstract, download publication »
Title: Transcriptomic Analysis of Xylan Utilization Systems in Paenibacillus sp
Source: Applied and Environmental Microbiology
Author(s) Sawhney, Neha; Crooks, Casey; St. John, Franz; Preston, James F.; Kelly, R. M.
Year: 2014   view abstract, download publication »
Publication Year: 2013
Title: Xylanase supplementation on enzymatic saccharification of dilute acid pretreated poplars at different severities
Source: Cellulose, Volume 20, 2013; pp.1937-1946.
Author(s) Zhang, Chao; Zhuang, Xinshu; Wang, Zhao Jiang; Matt, Fred; St. John, Franz; Zhu, J.Y.
Year: 2013   view abstract, download publication »
Publication Year: 2012
Title: Comparative genomics of Ceriporiopsis subvermispora and Phanerochaete chrysosporium provide insight into selective ligninolysis
Source: PNAS , April 3, 2012, volume 109, number 14;2012
Author(s) Fernandez-Fueyo, Elena; Ruiz-Dueñas, Francisco J.; Ferreira, Patricia; Floudas, Dimitrios; Hibbett, David S.; Canessa, Paulo; Larrondo, Luis F.; James, Tim Y.; Seelenfreund, Daniela; Lobos, Sergio; Polanco, Rubén; Tello, Mario; Honda, Yoichi; Watanabe, Takahito; Watanabe, Takashi; Ryu, Jae San; Kubicek, Christian P.; Schmoll, Monika; Gaskell, Jill; Hammel, Kenneth E.; St. John, Franz J.; Wymelenberg, Amber Vanden; Sabat, Grzegorz; BonDurant, Sandra Splinter; Syed, Khajamohiddin; Yadav, Jagjit S.; Dodapaneni, Harshavardhan; Subramanian, Venkataramanan; Lavin, José L.; Oguiza, José A.; Perez, Gumer; Pisabarro, Antonio G.; Ramirez, Lucia; Santoyo, Francisco; Master, Emma; Coutinho, Pedro M.; Henrissat, Bernard; Lombard, Vincent; Magnuson, Jon Karl; Kües, Ursula; Hori, Chiaki; Igarashi, Kiyohiko; Samejima, Masahiro; Held, Benjamin W.; Barry, Kerrie W.; LaButti, Kurt M.; Lapidus, Alla; Lindquist, Erika A.; Lucas, Susan M.; Riley, Robert; Salamov, Asaf A.; Hoffmeister, Dirk; Schwenk, Daniel; Hadar, Yitzhak; Yarden, Oded; de Vries, Ronald P.; Wiebenga, Ad; Stenlid, Jan; Eastwood, Daniel; Grigoriev, Igor V.; Berka, Randy M.; Blanchette, Robert A.; Kersten, Phil; Martinez, Angel T.; Vicuna, Rafael; Cullen, Daniel
Year: 2012   view abstract, download publication »
Title: Complete genome sequence of Paenibacillus sp. strain JDR-2
Source: Standards in Genomic Sciences (2012) 6:1-10.
Author(s) Chow, Virginia; Nong, Guang; St. John, Franz J.; Rice, John D.; Dickstein, Ellen; Chertkov, Olga; Bruce, David; Detter, Chris; Brettin, Thomas; Han, James; Woyke, Tanja; Pitluck, Sam; Nolan, Matt; Pati, Amrita; Martin, Joel; Copeland, Alex; Land, Miriam L.; Goodwin, Lynne; Jones, Jeffrey B.; Ingram, Lonnie O.; Shanmugam, Keelnathan T.; Preston, James F.
Year: 2012   view abstract, download publication »
Title: Novel structural features of xylanase A1 from Paenibacillus sp. JDR-2
Source: Journal of Structural Biology 180, 2012; pp. 303–311.
Author(s) St John, Franz J.; Preston, James F.; Pozharski, Edwin
Year: 2012   view abstract, download publication »
Title: The Paleozoic Origin of Enzymatic Lignin Decomposition Reconstructed from 31 Fungal Genomes
Source: SCIENCE VOL 336 29 JUNE 2012 (2012) DOI:1126/science.1221748,
Author(s) Floudas, Dimitrios; Binder, Manfred; Riely, Robert; Barry, Kerrie; Blanchette, Robert A.; Henrissat, Bernard; Martínez, Angel T.; Otillar, Robert; Spatafora, Joseph W.; Yadav, Jagjit S.; Aerts, Andrea; Benoit, Isabelle; Boyd, Alex; Carlson, Alexis; Copeland, Alex; Coutinho, Pedro M.; deVries, Ronald P.; Ferreira, Patricia; Findley, Keisha; Foster, Brian; Gaskell, Jill; Glotzer, Dylan; Górecki, Pawe³; Heitman, Joseph; Hesse, Cedar; Hori, Chiaki; Igarashi, Kiyohiko; Jurgens, Joel A.; Kallen, Nathan; Kersten, Phil; Kohler, Annegret; Kües, Ursula; ArunKumar, T. K.; Kuo, Alan; LaButti, Kurt; Larrondo, Luis F.; Lindquist, Erika; Ling, Albee; Lombard, Vincent; Lucas, Susan; Lundell, Taina; Martin, Rachael; McLaughlin, David J.; Morgenstern, Ingo; Morin, Emanuelle; Murat, Claude; Nagy, Laszlo G.; Nolan, Matt; Ohm, Robin A.; Patyshakuliyeva, Aleksandrina; Rokas, Antonis; Ruiz-Dueñas, Francisco J.; Sabat, Grzegorz; Salamov, Asaf; Samejima, Masahiro; Schmutz, Jeremy; Slot, Jason C.; John, Franz St.; Stenlid, Jan; Sun, Hui; Sun, Sheng; Syed, Khajamohiddin; Tsang, Adrian; Wiebenga, Ad; Young, Darcy; Pisabarro, Antonio; Eastwood, Daniel C.; Martin, Francis; Cullen, Dan; Grigoriev, Igor V.; Hibbett, David S.
Year: 2012   view abstract, download publication »
Publication Year: 2011
Title: Ligand bound structures of a glycosyl hydrolase family 30 glucuronoxylan xylanohydrolase
Source: Journal of Molecular Biology
Author(s) St. Johns, Franz; Hurlbert, Jason C.; Rice, John D.; Preston, James F.; Pozharski, Edwin
Year: 2011   view abstract, download publication »
Title: Proteomic and functional analysis of the Cellulase system Expressed by Postia placenta during Brown Rot of Solid Wood
Source: Applied and Environmental Microbiology, Nov. 2011, p. 7933-7941; 2011
Author(s) Ryu, JaeSan; Shary, Semarjit; Houtman,Carl J.; Panisko, Ellen A.; Korripally, Premsagar; St.John, Franz J.; Crooks, Casey; Siika-aho, Matti; Magnuson, Jon K.; Hammel, Kenneth E.
Year: 2011   view abstract, download publication »
Publication Year: 2010
Title: Consolidation of glycosyl hydrolase family 30: A dual domain 4/7 hydrolase family consisting of two structurally distinct groups
Source: FEBS Letters, 584 (2010) 4435-4441. doi:10.1016/j.febslet.2010.09.051; 2010
Author(s) St John, Franz J.; Gonzalez, Javier M.; Pozharski, Edwin
Year: 2010   view abstract, download publication »
Publication Year: 2017
Crystallographic comparison of the GlcA-independent CaXyn30A aglycone region with the ligand bound GlcA-dependent CtXyn30A structure.
Highlight ID: 1296
Enzymatic conversion of xylan into valuable products.

Xylan represents a vast store of potential value but rather than seeing beneficial use, much of this reservoir is lost in catastrophic wildfires that result in significant property loss and tragic loss of life. This Forest Service research aims to un ...

Publication Year: 2016
Comparative expression levels of Paenibacillus sp JDR-2 polysaccharide utilization genes when grown on select plant-derived substrates. U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service.
Highlight ID: 663
Characterization of Microbial Biocatalysts in Lignocellulosic Utilization

Bioconversion of lignocellulosic biomass would benefit from development of second generation bacterial biocatalysts. The bacterium Paenibacillus sp. strain JDR2, originally isolated from decaying sweetgum wood disks, has the ability to process a vari ...

Proposed Van der waals interactions between a xylooligosaccharide and an appendage depended xylan degrading enzyme. U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service.
Highlight ID: 662
Development of Enzymes for use in Lignocellulose Processing

The ultimate best use of lignocellulose allows for the selective extraction of defined value streams. To facilitate this, Forest Service research strives to develop new enzymes with unique capabilities in biomass processing. These new enzymes aim to ...

Publication Year: 2015
The structure model of the new glycoside hydrolase family 30-8 (GH30-8) xylanase (green) overlaid with the previously determined protein structure of a canonical GH30-8 xylanase (blue) indicating that although the new xylanase is functionally unique, it does not structurally differ from the canonical GH30-8 xylanases (top). An alignment showing the specific region of primary amino acid sequence containing the altered sequence (red boxes) attributed to the observed difference in mode of action of this new enzyme against its xylan substrate. USDA Forest Service
Highlight ID: 613
Protein Structure and Biochemical Characterization of a Novel Functioning Xylanase

Scientists identified and characterized a xylanase with unique function that may have applications in processing of woody biomass substrate. ...

Publication Year: 2013
Image 1: A picture of PbXynA1 (an xylanases enzyme) with the a xylooligosaccharide (sugar polymer) bound into the active site. Image 2: A close up revealing a large pocket not previously observed in other xylanases (enzymes) of this family. Franz St John, USDA Forest Service
Highlight ID: 452
Researchers Determine the Structure of Bacterial Protein Involved in Biomass Conversion

Researchers structurally characterized a bacterial protein involved in biomass degradation. The knowledge obtained from this novel protein suggest that it may function better than comparable enzymes in targeting complex lignocellulosic biomass. ...