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JBEI researchers use proteomics to ID 1750 unique proteins in switchgrass

Researchers with the US Department of Energy (DOE)’s Joint BioEnergy Institute (JBEI) have used advanced proteomic techniques to identify 1,750 unique proteins in shoots of switchgrass (Panicum virgatum), a North American native prairie grass that is viewed as a promising biofuel crop candidate. The results of this study are reported in the journal Proteomics.

Proteomics is the study of the proteome, which is the complete set of proteins expressed by an organism, tissue, or cell.

The cost-effective production of biofuels from lignocellulosic material will likely require manipulation of plant biomass, specifically cell walls. The North American native prairie grass Panicum virgatum (switchgrass) is currently seen as a potential biofuel crop with an array of genetic resources currently being developed. We have characterized the endomembrane proteome of switchgrass coleoptiles to provide additional information to the switchgrass community. In total, we identified 1750 unique proteins from two biological replicates. The data have been deposited in the ProteomeXchange with the identifier PXD001351.

—Lao et al.

This was a pilot study to actually test if these proteomic tools are applicable to switchgrass. That we were able to identify such a large number of proteins in our samples shows that proteomics will be useful when we start digging for proteins that will enable us to manipulate switchgrass for increased biofuel production. Plant cell walls or biomass are costly to deconstruct for sugar release for downstream applications such as biofuels, but genetic modifications to plant cell wall structure could result in significant downstream economic impacts.

The overall number of unique proteins we identified highlights the contributions proteomics can provide as more plant genomes become publicly accessible. You can think of it as a tool that helps us find needles in a haystack. For example, with proteomics we can determine the four highest expressed members out of a protein family of 60.

—Benjamin Schwessinger, corresponding author

This research was supported by the DOE Office of Science and the Human Frontier Science Program.


  • Jeemeng Lao, Manoj Sharma, Rita Sharma, Susana M. González Fernández-Niño, Jeremy Schmutz, Pamela C. Ronald, Joshua L. Heazlewood and Benjamin Schwessinger (2015) “Proteome profile of the endomembrane of developing coleoptiles from switchgrass (Panicum virgatum)” Proteomics doi: 10.1002/pmic.201400487



How soon will switchgrass be modified as a source of animal and human feed stock?

Switchgrass cookies could feed the world?


Yes. Pine trees, too.

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