Center for Advanced BioEnergy Research, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

DOE scientists make cell wall breakthrough

Ethanol Producer Magazine
December 2010
By Kris Bevill
Posted Dec. 16, 2010

After three years of extensive research, scientists at the U.S. DOE’s Brookhaven National Laboratory believe they have uncovered an important piece of the plant cell wall mystery that has previously stumped researchers worldwide and slowed progress in the commercialization of cellulosic ethanol.

The discovery centers around the lignin precursors that form a plant’s cell wall. Until now, no one knew how those precursors traveled across a membrane to form the lignin component of the cell wall. The Brookhaven research team, led by Chang-Jun Liu, found that without the addition of ATP, a multifunctional nucleotide that is considered to be molecular “currency” for energy in cells, the precursors were unable to move across cell membranes in their designed assays. This finding revealed that lignin precursors’ movement might require the ATP-dependent transporters. The team further confirmed this by applying ATP-dependent transport inhibitors to the mixture of lignin precursors and the prepared membranes, which largely blocked transport of the precursors across cell membranes that would typically play a role in the construction of the cell wall.

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