Dr. Mohnen's group at the University of Georgia has identified a clade of genes that are associated with the control of the biosynthesis of both pectin and lignin (and possibly xylan). Mutations of these genes in certain plants (including switchgrass and Populus) lead to considerable reduction of recalcitrance (v. wild type), as shown by means of bacterial degradation of modified biomass. Furthermore, Populus plants bearing some of these mutations have exhibited a considerable increase in height and stem diameter (v.wild type). Plants bearing these mutations may prove suitable for economically viable extraction and use of carbohydrates from plant cell wall, as recalcitrance is greatly reduced and rate of overall growth of modified plants increase.
The gene, an amino acid transporter, can used to (i) alter glucose and xylose release, (ii) alter syringyl to guaiacyl ratio in cell walls (iii) manipulate cellulose fiber extension, cell death, lignin content, and secondary cell wall formation, (iv) alter hexose and pentose sugar composition in the cell wall for biofuel production, (v) enhance resistance to pests and pathogens (vi) enhance plant growth, and the promoter associated with this gene can used for tissue specific gene expression.
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