Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Plant Gene Mapping May Lead To Better Biofuel Production

Date:
April 20, 2009
Source:
DOE/Brookhaven National Laboratory
Summary:
By creating a "family tree" of genes expressed in one form of woody plant and a less woody, herbaceous species, scientists have uncovered clues that may help them engineer plants more amenable to biofuel production. The study also lays a foundation for understanding these genes' evolutionary and structural properties and for a broader exploration of their roles in plant life.

Plants have strategies to inhibit being digested. For example, 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.
Credit: Image courtesy of DOE/Brookhaven National Laboratory

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.

Related Articles


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.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by DOE/Brookhaven National Laboratory. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

DOE/Brookhaven National Laboratory. "Plant Gene Mapping May Lead To Better Biofuel Production." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 20 April 2009. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/04/090414102648.htm>.
DOE/Brookhaven National Laboratory. (2009, April 20). Plant Gene Mapping May Lead To Better Biofuel Production. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 31, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/04/090414102648.htm
DOE/Brookhaven National Laboratory. "Plant Gene Mapping May Lead To Better Biofuel Production." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/04/090414102648.htm (accessed October 31, 2014).

Share This



More Plants & Animals News

Friday, October 31, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Watch Baby Goose Survive A 400-Foot Cliff Dive

Watch Baby Goose Survive A 400-Foot Cliff Dive

Buzz60 (Oct. 31, 2014) For its nature series Life Story, the BBC profiled the barnacle goose, whose chicks must make a daredevil 400-foot cliff dive from their nests to find food. Jen Markham has the astonishing video. Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com
World's Salamanders At Risk From Flesh-Eating Fungus

World's Salamanders At Risk From Flesh-Eating Fungus

Newsy (Oct. 31, 2014) The import of salamanders around the globe is thought to be contributing to the spread of a deadly fungus. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Alcoholic Drinks In The E.U. Could Get Calorie Labels

Alcoholic Drinks In The E.U. Could Get Calorie Labels

Newsy (Oct. 31, 2014) A health group in the United Kingdom has called for mandatory calorie labels on alcoholic beverages in the European Union. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Malaria Threat in Liberia as Fight Against Ebola Rages

Malaria Threat in Liberia as Fight Against Ebola Rages

AFP (Oct. 31, 2014) Focus on treating the Ebola epidemic in Liberia means that treatment for malaria, itself a killer, is hard to come by. MSF are now undertaking the mass distribution of antimalarials in Monrovia. Duration: 00:38 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins