Corn fiber, a byproduct from the corn industry, would be a good source for bioethanol production if the hemicellulose, consisting of polymeric glucoronoarabinoxylans, can be degraded into fermentable sugars. Structural knowledge of the hemicellulose is needed to improve the enzymatic hydrolyses of corn fiber. Oligosaccharides that resisted a mild acid pretreatment and subsequent enzymatic hydrolysis, representing 50% of the starting material, were fractionated on reversed phase and size exclusion material and characterized. The oligosaccharides within each fraction were highly substituted by various compounds. Oligosaccharides containing uronic acid were accumulated in two polar fractions unless also a feruloyl group was present. Feruloylated oligosaccharides, containing mono- and/or diferulic acid, were accumulated within four more apolar fractions. All fractions contained high amounts of acetyl substituents. The data show that complex xylan oligomers are present in which ferulic acid, diferulates, acetic acid, galactose, arabinose, and uronic acids were combined within an oligomer. Hypothetical structures are discussed, demonstrating which enzyme activities are lacking to fully degrade corn glucuronoarabinoxylans.
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