January 3, 2015

Plant Genetic Advance Could Lead to More Efficient Conversion of Plant Biomass to Biofuels

Arabidopsis thaliana

Plant geneticists including Sam Hazen at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and Siobhan Brady at the University of California, Davis, have sorted out the gene regulatory networks that control cell wall thickening by the synthesis of the three polymers, cellulose, hemicellulose and lignin.

The authors say that the most rigid of the polymers, lignin, represents “a major impediment” to extracting sugars from plant biomass that can be used to make biofuels. Their genetic advance is expected to “serve as a foundation for understanding the regulation of a complex, integral plant component” and as a map for how future researchers might manipulate the polymer-forming processes to improve the efficiency of biofuel production.