Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Plant Gene Mapping May Lead to Better Biofuel Production

16.04.2009
By creating a “family tree” of genes expressed in one form of woody plant and a less woody, herbaceous species, scientists at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Brookhaven National Laboratory have uncovered clues that may help them engineer plants more amenable to biofuel production.

The study, published in the April 2009 issue of Plant Molecular Biology, also lays a foundation for understanding these genes’ evolutionary and structural properties and for a broader exploration of their roles in plant life.

“We are studying a very large family of genes that instruct cells to make a variety of enzymes important in a wide range of plant functions,” said Brookhaven biologist Chang-Jun Liu. By searching the genomes of woody Poplar trees and leafy Arabidopsis, the scientists identified 94 and 61 genes they suspected belonged to this family in those two species, respectively.

They then looked at how the genes were expressed — activated to make their enzyme products — in different parts of the plants. Of particular interest to Liu’s group were a number of genes expressed at high levels in the woody plant tissues.

“Wood and other biofibers made of plant cell walls are the most abundant feedstocks for biofuel production,” explained Liu. “One of the first steps of biofuel production is to break down these biofibers, or digest them, to make sugar.”

But plants have strategies to inhibit being digested. For example, Liu explained, small molecules called acyl groups attached to cell-wall fibers can act as barriers to hinder conversion of the fibers to sugar. Acyl groups can also form cross-linked networks that make cell walls extra strong.

“Our long-term interest is to find the enzymes that control the formation of cell-wall-bound acyl groups, so we can learn how to modify plant cell walls to increase their digestibility,” Liu said. “The current study, a thorough investigation of an acyl-modifying enzyme family, provides a starting point for us to pursue this goal.”

In fact, some of the genes the scientists found to be expressed at high levels in woody tissues may carry the genetic instructions for making the enzymes the scientists would like to control.

“Our next step will be to use biochemical and biophysical approaches to characterize these individual genes’ functions to find those directly or indirectly related to cell-wall modification. Then we could use those genes to engineer new bioenergy crops, and test whether those changes improve the efficiency of converting biomass to biofuel,” Liu said.

Liu’s group also made some interesting observations about gene expression and gene location in their study of the acyl-modifying enzyme genes. “We discovered a few unique pairs of genes that were inversely overlapped with their neighboring genes on the genome,” Liu said. In this unique organization, the paired genes (sequences of DNA) produce protein-encoding segments (RNAs) that are complementary to one another — meaning the two RNA strands would stick to each other like highly specific Velcro. That would prevent the RNA from building its enzyme, so the expression of one gene in the pair appears to inhibit its partner.

Perhaps understanding this natural “anti-sense” regulation for gene expression will assist scientists in their attempts to regulate acyl-modifying enzyme levels.

This work was supported by the DOE-Department of Agriculture joint Plant Feedstock Genomics program and by Brookhaven’s Laboratory Directed Research and Development program. Funding was also provided by DOE’s Office of Science. In addition to Liu, Xiao-Hong Yu, a former postdoctoral research associate, and Jinying Gou, a current postdoc, contributed to this work.

Karen McNulty Walsh | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.bnl.gov
http://www.bnl.gov/bnlweb/pubaf/pr/PR_display.asp?prID=928

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht 'Y' a protein unicorn might matter in glaucoma
23.10.2017 | Georgia Institute of Technology

nachricht Microfluidics probe 'cholesterol' of the oil industry
23.10.2017 | Rice University

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Salmonella as a tumour medication

HZI researchers developed a bacterial strain that can be used in cancer therapy

Salmonellae are dangerous pathogens that enter the body via contaminated food and can cause severe infections. But these bacteria are also known to target...

Im Focus: Neutron star merger directly observed for the first time

University of Maryland researchers contribute to historic detection of gravitational waves and light created by event

On August 17, 2017, at 12:41:04 UTC, scientists made the first direct observation of a merger between two neutron stars--the dense, collapsed cores that remain...

Im Focus: Breaking: the first light from two neutron stars merging

Seven new papers describe the first-ever detection of light from a gravitational wave source. The event, caused by two neutron stars colliding and merging together, was dubbed GW170817 because it sent ripples through space-time that reached Earth on 2017 August 17. Around the world, hundreds of excited astronomers mobilized quickly and were able to observe the event using numerous telescopes, providing a wealth of new data.

Previous detections of gravitational waves have all involved the merger of two black holes, a feat that won the 2017 Nobel Prize in Physics earlier this month....

Im Focus: Smart sensors for efficient processes

Material defects in end products can quickly result in failures in many areas of industry, and have a massive impact on the safe use of their products. This is why, in the field of quality assurance, intelligent, nondestructive sensor systems play a key role. They allow testing components and parts in a rapid and cost-efficient manner without destroying the actual product or changing its surface. Experts from the Fraunhofer IZFP in Saarbrücken will be presenting two exhibits at the Blechexpo in Stuttgart from 7–10 November 2017 that allow fast, reliable, and automated characterization of materials and detection of defects (Hall 5, Booth 5306).

When quality testing uses time-consuming destructive test methods, it can result in enormous costs due to damaging or destroying the products. And given that...

Im Focus: Cold molecules on collision course

Using a new cooling technique MPQ scientists succeed at observing collisions in a dense beam of cold and slow dipolar molecules.

How do chemical reactions proceed at extremely low temperatures? The answer requires the investigation of molecular samples that are cold, dense, and slow at...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

3rd Symposium on Driving Simulation

23.10.2017 | Event News

ASEAN Member States discuss the future role of renewable energy

17.10.2017 | Event News

World Health Summit 2017: International experts set the course for the future of Global Health

10.10.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Microfluidics probe 'cholesterol' of the oil industry

23.10.2017 | Life Sciences

Gamma rays will reach beyond the limits of light

23.10.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

The end of pneumonia? New vaccine offers hope

23.10.2017 | Health and Medicine

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>