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Discovery of new lignin biosynthetic pathway could aid biofuel production

Researchers from Ghent University (Belgium) and the University of Dundee (UK) led a team that has uncovered the role of a new enzyme—caffeoylshikimate esterase (CSE)—in a previously unknown biosynthetic pathway for the formation of lignin in plants. Lignin is a major component of plant secondary cell walls, and a barrier to extracting sugars from plants for biofuel production.

In a paper published in the journal Science, they reported that by knocking out the enzyme in Arabidopsis plants, they were able to increase the conversion of cellulose to glucose by up to four-fold compared to wild type.

Associated with the changes in lignin, the conversion of cellulose to glucose of cse mutants increased up to fourfold compared to wild type upon saccharification without pretreatment. Collectively, these data necessitate revision of currently accepted models of the lignin biosynthetic pathway.

—Vanholme et al.

Resources

  • Ruben Vanholme, Igor Cesarino, Katarzyna Rataj, Yuguo Xiao, Lisa Sundin, Geert Goeminne, Hoon Kim, Joanna Cross, Kris Morreel, Pedro Araujo, Lydia Welsh, Jurgen Haustraete, Christopher McClellan, Bartel Vanholme, John Ralph, Gordon G. Simpson, Claire Halpin, and Wout Boerjan (2013) Caffeoyl Shikimate Esterase (CSE) Is an Enzyme in the Lignin Biosynthetic Pathway. Science doi: 10.1126/science.1241602

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