Navigation Links
Learning secrets of world's most common organic compound driving research for biofuels
Date:8/23/2011

MANHATTAN, Kan. -- Preliminary research at Kansas State University may make a difference one day at the gas pump.

Many scientists believe that cellulose, the most common organic compound on earth, has enough energy to be the next source for biofuels -- if a procedure to effectively break it down could be devised. Cellulose is a cell wall component that gives plants their rigidity.

Kathrin Schrick, assistant professor in Kansas State University's Division of Biology, has been awarded nearly $900,000 for the next four years from the National Science Foundation to investigate the role sterols, fat-soluble molecules, play in the cell's production of cellulose.

"If we can understand how it is made and how to break it down into simple sugars, then we can generate energy," Schrick said. "We know that sterols are important in making cellulose, but we are not clear how they work. This grant is funding research that should help us with that."

Cellulose is composed of complex fibers made of sugar. Since its strength functions to keep plant tissue sturdy, it also makes it difficult to break down, Schrick said. It requires harsh pretreatment and expensive enzymes, so Schrick hopes her research will provide an understanding of how cellulose is made, which might give insight on how to break it down more easily.

"Not even the structure of cellulose synthase, the enzyme responsible for activating cellulose machinery, is known. We can model it, we can imagine how it looks but we don't really know, and we know even less about how it functions," Schrick said.

Schrick has two hypotheses for sterols' association with the cellulose machinery. She believes that sterols either help to stabilize the construction of cellulose, or they transfer glucose residues to the machinery to make cellulose.

"We know that the machinery that builds cellulose sits in the plasma membrane. Our hypothesis is that the protein complex that makes cellulose actually needs to directly interact with sterols to function properly," she said.

Her hypotheses came from her discovery of a mutation in a dwarf Arabidopsis plant, a common model species used in scientific research. The mutant plant produces about 50 percent less cellulose than normal plants, causing the plant to be smaller and unable to reach maturity in the wild. Schrick went on to discover that mutations in several enzymes, required for the biosynthesis of sterols, affect the amount of cellulose produced.

"The sterol biosynthesis mutants have shown us that sterols are critical for cellulose synthesis, but we still don't understand why. We are using the latest tools to solve the problem at the molecular level, which will potentially lead to advances in the development of biofuels," she said.

Schrick is collaborating with several scientists nationally and internationally. Among them are Seth DeBolt at the University of Kentucky, a co-principle investigator on the grant, and Vincent Bulone at the Division of Glycosciences in the Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm, Sweden.

Bulone was one of the first scientists to efficiently synthesize cellulose outside of the cell by gathering all the necessary components needed to build cellulose fibers in a test tube. The level of cellulose synthase activity achieved in Bulone's lab represents the highest proportion of cellulose reported from in vitro synthesis to date, Schrick said.


'/>"/>

Contact: Kathrin Schrick
kschrick@k-state.edu
785-532-6360
Kansas State University
Source:Eurekalert

Related biology news :

1. Moths with a nose for learning
2. Baby talk: The roots of the early vocabulary in infants learning from speech
3. New report on science learning at museums, zoos, other informal settings
4. DREAM: 1 gene regulates pain, learning and memory
5. At WPI, some students are learning its OK to peek
6. Learning how the pieces responsible for interpreting the human genome work
7. MU study finds connection between evolution, classroom learning
8. Scientists are learning more about big birds from feathers
9. Scientists devise efficient way of learning about complex corn traits
10. Why one way of learning is better than another
11. Habit-learning device will lower energy bills under new clean energy cashback scheme
Post Your Comments:
*Name:
*Comment:
*Email:
(Date:6/14/2017)... -- IBM (NYSE: IBM ) is introducing several innovative partner ... developing collaboration between startups and global businesses, taking place in ... event, nine startups will showcase the solutions they have built ... France is one of ... 30 percent increase in the number of startups created between ...
(Date:5/6/2017)... RAM Group , Singaporean based ... in biometric authentication based on a novel  ... to perform biometric authentication. These new sensors are based on ... Ram Group and its partners. This sensor will have ... and security. Ram Group is a next generation ...
(Date:4/17/2017)... , April 17, 2017 NXT-ID, Inc. (NASDAQ: ... announces the filing of its 2016 Annual Report on Form 10-K ... Commission. ... 10-K is available in the Investor Relations section of the Company,s ... the SEC,s website at http://www.sec.gov . 2016 Year ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:6/20/2017)... 2017  Kibow Biotech Inc., a pioneer in developing ... of a new patent covering a unique method for ... Patent and Trademark Office on May 23 rd ... of Bio award in 2014 in San ... approaches to chronic disease. Renadyl™, the first and only ...
(Date:6/19/2017)... ... 2017 , ... As Vice President, Product Services, Mr. Guinter ... support, and client process and SOP development. , Mr. Guinter brings a wealth ... for service providers and top-tier pharmaceuticals, and as an independent consultant supported a ...
(Date:6/16/2017)... ... June 16, 2017 , ... ... has just announced two more sessions of its “From the Helm” Webinar Series. ... the world of online templates for design control exercises. Led by David Cronin, ...
(Date:6/15/2017)... CT (PRWEB) , ... June 15, 2017 , ... ... that it has secured a Series B round of financing in the amount ... a group of private investors participated in the round. , The Series B ...
Breaking Biology Technology: