BioEnergy Research

, Volume 2, Issue 3, pp 153–164 | Cite as

Improved Sugar Conversion and Ethanol Yield for Forage Sorghum (Sorghum bicolor L. Moench) Lines with Reduced Lignin Contents

  • Bruce S. DienEmail author
  • Gautam Sarath
  • Jeffrey F. Pedersen
  • Scott E. Sattler
  • Han Chen
  • Deanna L. Funnell-Harris
  • Nancy N. Nichols
  • Michael A. Cotta


Lignin is known to impede conversion of lignocellulose into ethanol. In this study, forage sorghum plants carrying brown midrib (bmr) mutations, which reduce lignin contents, were evaluated as bioenergy feedstocks. The near-isogenic lines evaluated were: wild type, bmr-6, bmr-12, and bmr-6 bmr-12 double mutant. The bmr-6 and bmr-12 mutations were equally efficient at reducing lignin contents (by 13% and 15%, respectively), and the effects were additive (27%) for the double mutant. Reducing lignin content was highly beneficial for improving biomass conversion yields. Sorghum biomass samples were pretreated with dilute acid and recovered solids washed and hydrolyzed with cellulase to liberate glucose. Glucose yields for the sorghum biomass were improved by 27%, 23%, and 34% for bmr-6, bmr-12, and the double mutant, respectively, compared to wild type. Sorghum biomass was also pretreated with dilute acid followed by co-treatment with cellulases and Saccharomyces cerevisiae for simultaneous saccharification and fermentation (SSF) into ethanol. Conversion of cellulose to ethanol for dilute-acid pretreated sorghum biomass was improved by 22%, 21%, and 43% for bmr-6, bmr-12, and the double mutant compared to wild type, respectively. Electron microscopy of dilute-acid treated samples showed an increased number of lignin globules in double-mutant tissues as compared to the wild-type, suggesting the lignin had become more pliable. The mutations were also effective for improving ethanol yields when the (degrained) sorghum was pretreated with dilute alkali instead of dilute acid. Following pretreatment with dilute ammonium hydroxide and SSF, ethanol conversion yields were 116 and 130 mg ethanol/g dry biomass for the double-mutant samples and 98 and 113 mg/g for the wild-type samples.


Bioenergy crops Bioethanol Brown midrib Lignin Sorghum bicolor 



The authors would like to thank Ms. Patricia J. O’Bryan, Mr. Loren Iten, and John J. Toy for their fine technical assistance.


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Copyright information

© US Government 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Bruce S. Dien
    • 1
    Email author
  • Gautam Sarath
    • 2
  • Jeffrey F. Pedersen
    • 2
  • Scott E. Sattler
    • 2
  • Han Chen
    • 3
  • Deanna L. Funnell-Harris
    • 2
  • Nancy N. Nichols
    • 1
  • Michael A. Cotta
    • 1
  1. 1.Fermentation Biotechnology Research Unit, National Center for Agricultural Utilization ResearchAgricultural Research Service, United States Department of AgriculturePeoriaUSA
  2. 2.Grain, Forage, and Bioenergy Research Unit, Agricultural Research ServiceUnited States Department of AgricultureLincolnUSA
  3. 3.Microscopy Facility, E-119 Beadle, Center for BiotechnologyUniversity of Nebraska-LincolnLincolnUSA

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