, Volume 231, Issue 3, pp 677-691,
Open Access This content is freely available online to anyone, anywhere at any time.
Date: 11 Dec 2009

Down-regulation of four putative arabinoxylan feruloyl transferase genes from family PF02458 reduces ester-linked ferulate content in rice cell walls

Abstract

Industrial processes to produce ethanol from lignocellulosic materials are available, but improved efficiency is necessary to make them economically viable. One of the limitations for lignocellulosic conversion to ethanol is the inaccessibility of the cellulose and hemicelluloses within the tight cell wall matrix. Ferulates (FA) can cross-link different arabinoxylan molecules in the cell wall of grasses via diferulate and oligoferulate bridges. This complex cross-linking is thought to be a key factor in limiting the biodegradability of grass cell walls and, therefore, the reduction in FA is an attractive target to improve enzyme accessibility to cellulose and hemicelluloses. Unfortunately, our knowledge of the genes responsible for the incorporation of FA to the cell wall is limited. A bioinformatics prediction based on the gene similarities and higher transcript abundance in grasses relative to dicot species suggested that genes from the pfam family PF02458 may act as arabinoxylan feruloyl transferases. We show here that the FA content in the cell walls and the transcript levels of rice genes Os05g08640, Os06g39470, Os01g09010 and Os06g39390, are both higher in the stems than in the leaves. In addition, an RNA interference (RNAi) construct that simultaneously down-regulates transcript levels of these four genes is associated with a significant reduction in FA of the cell walls from the leaves of the transgenic plants relative to the control (19% reduction, P < 0.0001). Therefore, our experimental results in rice support the bioinformatics prediction that members of family PF02458 are involved in the incorporation of FA into the cell wall in grasses.