Allelic Association, Chemical Characterization and Saccharification Properties of brown midrib Mutants of Sorghum (Sorghum bicolor (L.) Moench)
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- Saballos, A., Vermerris, W., Rivera, L. et al. Bioenerg. Res. (2008) 1: 193. doi:10.1007/s12155-008-9025-7
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Genetic improvement of biomass crops can significantly reduce the overall cost of biomass-to-ethanol conversion. The conversion of cellulose to monomeric sugar units is affected by lignin content and composition. Sorghum has attracted the attention of the scientific and industrial community as a promising source of biomass for bioenergy due to its great yield potential and tolerance to stresses. The brown midrib (bmr) mutants of sorghum are characterized by brown vascular tissue associated with altered lignin content. Twenty-eight bmr mutants have been identified since the late 1970s, but the allelic relationships have not been fully established, and the function of only one of the Bmr loci has been unequivocally established. In this study, we combined genetic and chemical approaches to establish that there are mutations at least four independent bmr loci, represented by the bmr2, bmr6, bmr12 and bmr19 groups. Since each allelic group presents unique staining characteristics, rapid classification of emerging bmr lines into the existing groups can be achieved using phloroglucinol-HCl as a histochemical stain. In addition, pyrolysis-gas chromatography-mass spectrometry, enabled the characterization of changes in subunit lignin composition in each of the allelic groups, to help predict the genes underlying the mutations. Enzymatic saccharification of stover from plants representing each allelic bmr group demonstrated that lignin changes in lines belonging to the bmr2, bmr6 and bmr12 groups can increase glucose yields, up to 25% compared to wild-type isolines. In order to expedite the selection of the bmr mutant alleles in breeding populations, we have developed molecular markers specific for bmr7 and bmr25, two novel mutant alleles of the gene encoding caffeic acid O-methyl transferase. Based on the results from this study, we propose to rename the bmr mutants in a manner that reflects the number of independent loci.