UPTON, NY--Scientists at the U.S. Department of Energy's Brookhaven National Laboratory have identified a new way to regulate the production of phenols, a class of plant products with a wide range of applications for humans. These compounds serve as an important source of flavors, fragrances, and pigments; some are of interest for their possible health-promoting effects; and through their contribution to the construction of plant cell walls, (poly)phenols are the major factor influencing how easy it is to convert biomass to biofuels.
"Finding ways to effectively tailor phenol synthesis toward these different purposes could have a large impact on society," said Chang-Jun Liu, who led the team conducting this research.
As described in a paper published in The Plant Cell on December 20, 2013, Liu's team-including postdoctoral research associates Xuebin Zhang and Mingyue Gou-explored an unconventional approach to achieve this goal. The conventional approach takes aim at the regulation of genes that instruct plant cells to make enzymes involved in phenol production. These enzymes are proteins that serve as catalysts to speed up the chemical reactions that synthesize phenols. Instead of trying to regulate how these enzymes are produced, Liu's group looked at how the enzymes might be manipulated after production to control their ability to make plant phenols.
"We know that turning genes on or off can control enzyme levels, therefore influencing the yield of plant products such as phenols," said Liu. "But plants have also developed a very sophisticated system for removing and recycling aberrant or unnecessary proteins/enzymes, and they use this system to regulate their levels. Our goal was to understand how this recycling system might be used to control phenol production."
The cellular protein recycling machinery consists of various parts that work together to first identify and biochemicall
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DOE/Brookhaven National Laboratory