U.S. Department of Energy Office of Biological and Environmental Research

BER Research Highlights


New Target for Engineering Lignin for Biofuel Production
Published: October 14, 2014
Posted: March 12, 2015

Plant cell walls contain polysaccharides that can be hydrolyzed into fermentable sugars, but this process is inhibited by lignin. Altering lignin composition or structure can reduce the amount of effort needed to release glucose from cellulose, thus improving the economics of cellulosic biofuels production. Department of Energy Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center (GLBRC) researchers John Ralph and Hoon Kim and their colleagues at Ghent University and Flanders Institute of Biology have a goal of understanding the control points in the lignin biosynthetic pathway and how to use them to improve biomass properties. They identified a new target for engineering lignin for biofuel production by using transcriptomics and microarray studies to identify genes that co-express with other known lignin biosynthesis genes. In the model plant Arabidopsis, there are three cytochrome P450 reductase genes, and one of these three genes controls an enzyme (ATR2) that is co-expressed with lignin biosynthetic genes. By studying mutant plants in which the atr2 gene was down-regulated via T-DNA insertion, researchers found that the atr2 mutants had increased glucose release from cellulose relative to the wild type following base pretreatment. This increase in saccharification appeared to result from both altered lignin structure and altered lignin content. The results support the contention that ATR2 is involved in the lignin pathway and is thus a target for engineering plant cell walls that are better suited for biofuels applications. The study also suggests additional candidates in the lignin pathway for future study.

Reference: Sundin, L., R. Vanholme, J. Geerinck, G. Goeminne, R. Höfer, H. Kim, J. Ralph, and W. Boerjan. 2014. “Mutation of the Inducible ARABIDOPSIS THALIANA CYTOCHROME P450 REDUCTASE2 Alters Lignin Composition and Improves Saccharification,”Plant Physiology 166, 1956–71. DOI: 10.1104/pp.114.245548. (Reference link)

Contact: Kent Peters, SC-23.2, (301) 903-5549
Topic Areas:

  • Research Area: Genomic Analysis and Systems Biology
  • Research Area: Plant Systems and Feedstocks, Plant-Microbe Interactions
  • Research Area: Sustainable Biofuels and Bioproducts
  • Research Area: DOE Bioenergy Research Centers (BRC)
  • Research Area: Biosystems Design

Division: SC-23.2 Biological Systems Science Division, BER

 

BER supports basic research and scientific user facilities to advance DOE missions in energy and environment. More about BER

Recent Highlights

Aug 24, 2019
New Approach for Studying How Microbes Influence Their Environment
A diverse group of scientists suggests a common framework and targeting of known microbial processes [more...]

Aug 08, 2019
Nutrient-Hungry Peatland Microbes Reduce Carbon Loss Under Warmer Conditions
Enzyme production in peatlands reduces carbon lost to respiration under future high temperatures. [more...]

Aug 05, 2019
Amazon Forest Response to CO2 Fertilization Dependent on Plant Phosphorus Acquisition
AmazonFACE Model Intercomparison. The Science Plant growth is dependent on the availabi [more...]

Jul 29, 2019
A Slippery Slope: Soil Carbon Destabilization
Carbon gain or loss depends on the balance between competing biological, chemical, and physical reac [more...]

Jul 15, 2019
Field Evaluation of Gas Analyzers for Measuring Ecosystem Fluxes
How gas analyzer type and correction method impact measured fluxes. The Science A side- [more...]

List all highlights (possible long download time)