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

BER Research Highlights


The Challenge of Redesigning Lignin for Biofuel Applications
Published: November 22, 2010
Posted: January 11, 2011

Secondary cell walls of plants contain lignins that provide rigidity and pathogen resistance to the plant, but hinder breakdown of cell walls during biomass processing. This limits the efficient use of plants as bioenergy feedstocks. Lignins are polymers formed from several different chemical monomers and the nature of these monomers determines the properties of the lignin polymer. Modifying the lignin composition could significantly improve the ease of conversion of biomass to biofuel products, while retaining the critical functions of lignins for the plants growing in the field. Researchers at the DOE Great Lakes Bioenergy Center (GLBRC) have found that by altering two genes in Arabidopsis, a plant often used as a research model, a unique lignin is produced that contains a non-traditional monomer. The altered plant exhibits reduced lignin content, a trait desirable for increasing efficiency of deconstruction, but also shows aberrant growth and development and large metabolic shifts. The GLBRC researchers found evidence for genetic interactions between two lignin biosynthetic pathways. These results are an example of the type of unanticipated effects that will need to be taken into account when designing strategies for genetically engineering plant cell walls for bioenergy applications.

Reference: Vanholme, R., J. Ralph, T. Akiyama, F. Lu, J.R. Pazo, H. Kim, J.H. Christensen, B. Van Reusel, V. Storme, R. De Rycke, A. Rohde, K. Morreel, and W. Boerjan. 2010. "Engineering Traditional Monolignols Out of Lignin by Concomitant F5H1-up- and COMT-down-regulation in Arabidopsis," Plant Journal. doe:10.1111/j.1365-313X.2010.04353.x.

Contact: Cathy Ronning, SC-23.2, (301) 903-9549
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)