|MadSci Network: Biochemistry|
how is silverfish able to digest paper?(what does the enzyme digest?) Message ID Number: 874412425.Bc The stability of paper and wood is a result of the inevailability of cellulose to the enzymes in most animal digestive tracts. Cellulose is a chain of D-glucose, unlike starch, in cellulose the glucose units are bound to each other by beta(1-4) bond. In starch, for example, it is an alpha(1-4) bond which is easily available to alpha-amylase, an enzyme in vertabrate intestinal tract. Once one breaks the cellulose to its D-glucose units it is easily digestible by any organism. According to Donald J. Borror (1995 - Grolier Encyclopedia) bristletails, to which the silverfish belongs, feed on the starchy material on the book binding and on the paperwall paste and (although he did not specifically say so) not on the cellulose that compose the paper itself. Nevertheless there are insects that do digest cellulose, such as termites. According to Lehninger's principle of Biochemistry (1982), those utilize the enzyme cellulase which is secreted by parasitic microorganisms in their intestinal tract.
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