Developmental Control of Lignification in Stems of Lowland Switchgrass Variety Alamo and the Effects on Saccharification Efficiency
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- Shen, H., Fu, C., Xiao, X. et al. Bioenerg. Res. (2009) 2: 233. doi:10.1007/s12155-009-9058-6
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The switchgrass variety Alamo has been chosen for genome sequencing, genetic breeding, and genetic engineering by the US Department of Energy Joint Genome Institute (JGI) and the US Department of Energy BioEnergy Science Center. Lignin has been considered as a major obstacle for cellulosic biofuel production from switchgrass biomass. The purpose of this study was to provide baseline information on cell wall development in different parts of developing internodes of tillers of switchgrass cultivar Alamo and evaluate the effect of cell wall properties on biomass saccharification. Cell wall structure, soluble and wall-bound phenolics, and lignin content were analyzed from the top, middle, and bottom parts of internodes at different developmental stages using ultraviolet autofluorescence microscopy, histological staining methods, and high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC). The examination of different parts of the developing internodes revealed differences in the stem structure during development, in the levels of free and well-bound phenolic compounds and lignin content, and in lignin pathway-related gene expression, indicating that the monolignol biosynthetic pathway in switchgrass is under complex spatial and temporal control. Our data clearly show that there was a strong negative correlation between overall lignin content and biomass saccharification efficiency. The ester-linked p-CA/FA ratio showed a positive correlation with lignin content and a negative correlation with sugar release. Our data provide baseline information to facilitate genetic modification of switchgrass recalcitrance traits for biofuel production.