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A better route to xylan
Date:11/12/2012

n of 14 genes with insertional rice mutants that are highly expressed members of the GT61 family. This led them to the identification of a mutant plant they named xax1 because its mutation resulted in the function of the XAX1 being knocked-out.

"XAX1 adds a specific xylose sugar to the arabinose substitutions on the xylan chain that creates more cross-links between xylan and lignin, making the plant cell walls less amenable to the production of biofuels," says Dawn Chiniquy, first author of the paper who is now with the Energy Biosciences Institute. "Without a functioning XAX1 gene, there were fewer cross-links with lignin, which made the xylan more extractable and also increased saccharification."

Subsequent assays showed the rice xax1 mutant plants to be deficient in ferulic and coumaric acid, aromatic compounds whose residues on arabinose are known to promote cross-linking between xylan chains the lignin. On the down-side, the xax1 mutant did yield a dwarf phenotype, but Scheller says he and his colleagues have already found a way to avoid the dwarf phenotype.

"We can apply the same principle used to make rice plants more easily saccharified to bioenergy crops," Scheller says. "With the ability to modify cross-linking between xylan and lignin by targeting a glycosyltransferase, we also now have a potentially important new biotechnological tool for grass biofuel feedstocks."


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Contact: Lynn Yarris
lcyarris@lbl.gov
510-486-5375
DOE/Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory
Source:Eurekalert  

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