Navigation Links
Newly discovered plant structure may lead to improved biofuel processing
Date:2/5/2013

Athens, Ga. When Li Tan approached his colleagues at the University of Georgia with some unusual data he had collected, they initially seemed convinced that his experiment had become contaminated; what he was seeing simply didn't make any sense.

Tan was examining some of the sugars, proteins and polymers that make up plant cell walls, which provide the structural support and protection that allow plants to grow. Yet his samples contained a mixture of sugars that should not be present in the same structure.

However, Tan was convinced that his samples were pure so he and Debra Mohnen, who heads the lab, met again to pore over the data. They came to realize that there were hints in the data of a connection between two different types of cell wall glycans (sugars) and a specific cell wall protein known as arabinogalactan protein. This connection is not known to exist and does not conform to the commonly held scientific definitions of plant cell wall structure.

But Tan and Mohnen, who both work as part of the BioEnergy Science Center, one of three U.S. Department of Energy-funded research centers, were persistent, and they, along with an interdisciplinary team of chemists, molecular biologists and plant experts at UGA, began searching for answers. What they found could redefine our understanding of basic plant biology, and it may lead to significant improvements in the growth and processing of biofuel crops.

"This is totally new," said Tan, a research scientist in the Complex Carbohydrate Research Center and lead author of a paper detailing the group's findings published Jan. 31 in an early online edition of The Plant Cell. "We had never seen linkages between these structures before, and we had to develop a variety of new tests to prove that what we saw was not simply a mistake or a contamination."

The scientific community generally agrees that complex sugars like pectin and xylan, which allow for cell wall structure, extension and growth, exist in separate networks from cell wall proteins. But the UGA researchers have identified a direct and indisputable link between these two domains.

"What this means is that plant scientists' view of the plant cell wall is at least partially wrong," said Mohnen, professor of biochemistry and molecular biology and a member of UGA's Complex Carbohydrate Research Center. "There have been hints over the last 30 or 40 years that this link might exist, but no one has been able to prove it until now."

The discovery has many far-reaching implications beyond the ways it may change biology textbooks. As concerns about the reality of global climate change continue to rise, scientists are working diligently to find useful alternatives to fossil fuel-derived energy.

Biofuels created from cultivated crops like trees and grasses show great promise as a carbon-neutral source of ethanol, but converting plants into fuel that might be used to power automobiles or create heat for homes has proven difficult. Millions of years of evolution have made plants resistant to breakdown, and the sugars needed for fermentation into ethanol are locked inside their complex cell walls.

But Tan and Mohnen are hopeful that their discovery combined with additional research will reveal many of the secrets of plant cell wall architecture and function, making them easier to break down or perhaps opening the doors for engineered plants that will work better as a feedstock for the biofuels industry and as better agricultural products.

"The applications that will emerge from this discovery are enormous," said Mohnen. "It's all going to stem from a refined understanding of how plants are put together and how they are made, but once we know that, we can start modifying them to make them perform in ways that are most advantageous to us."

"We've only just scratched the surface," she said. "But once we investigate this further and we understand the plant exceptionally well, the sky's the limit."


'/>"/>

Contact: Debra Mohnen
dmohnen@ccrc.uga.edu
706-542-4458
University of Georgia
Source:Eurekalert

Related biology news :

1. Newly released FDA draft guidelines for biosimilar drugs to be discussed at conference
2. Scripps Research discoveries lead to newly approved drug for infant respiratory distress syndrome
3. Newly discovered foot points to a new kid on the hominin block
4. Newly found protein helps cells build tissues
5. Scientists advance field of research with publication of newly validated method for analyzing flavanols in cocoa
6. Key proteins newly discovered form and function may provide novel cancer treatment target
7. Newly discovered breast milk antibodies help neutralize HIV
8. Newly discovered dinosaur implies greater prevalence of feathers
9. U of M researchers: Newly discovered genetic markers could signal colon cancer development
10. ORNLs newly licensed neutron detector will advance human disease research
11. Newly discovered letters and translated German ode expand Texas link to infamous Bone Wars
Post Your Comments:
*Name:
*Comment:
*Email:
(Date:11/24/2016)... , Nov. 23, 2016 Cercacor today introduced ... and their trainers non-invasively measure hemoglobin, Oxygen ... Rate, and Respiration Rate in approximately 30 seconds. Smaller ... easy and immediate access to key data about their ... a training regimen. Hemoglobin carries oxygen ...
(Date:11/22/2016)... 2016   MedNet Solutions , an innovative SaaS-based ... clinical research, is pleased to announce that the company ... Life Sciences Awards as "Most Outstanding in eClinical ... year of recognition and growth for MedNet, which has ... iMedNet ™ , MedNet,s flagship ...
(Date:11/19/2016)... Securus Technologies, a leading provider of civil and criminal ... monitoring, announced today that it has offered a challenge ... technology judge determine who has the largest and best ... platform, and the best customer service. "ICSolutions ... we do – which clearly is not the case ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:12/9/2016)... ... , ... DuPont Industrial Biosciences (DuPont) and Archer Daniels Midland ... from Platts Global Energy for their platform technology to produce a revolutionary ... 18th Platts Global Energy Awards, held in New York on Thursday, Dec. 8. ...
(Date:12/9/2016)... TORONTO , Dec. 9, 2016 /PRNewswire/ - Portage ... Securities Exchange: PBT.U), is pleased to announce that Biohaven ... New Haven, Connecticut (PRWEB) Dec ... "Company" or "Biohaven") announced today that the U.S. Food ... drug designation request covering its drug candidate BHV-0223, an ...
(Date:12/8/2016)... Dec. 8, 2016  OncoSec Medical Incorporated ("OncoSec") ... DNA-based intratumoral cancer immunotherapies, today announced financial results ... "We are delivering on our commitment to ... ImmunoPulse® IL-12. We are pleased with the early ... trial, and we are focused on advancing our ...
(Date:12/8/2016)... Eurofins announces the appointment of Sean Murray , ... Inc. (ESI). Mr. Murray will bring valuable expertise ... experience in leading international business teams. As the National Division Leader, ... uphold Eurofins, status as the global leader in bio-analytical testing services. ... , , ...
Breaking Biology Technology: