Journal Article

How endogenous plant cell-wall degradation mechanisms can help achieve higher efficiency in saccharification of biomass

Eveline Q. P. Tavares, Amanda P. De Souza and Marcos S. Buckeridge

in Journal of Experimental Botany

Volume 66, issue 14, pages 4133-4143
Published in print July 2015 | ISSN: 0022-0957
Published online April 2015 | e-ISSN: 1460-2431 | DOI:
How endogenous plant cell-wall degradation mechanisms can help achieve higher efficiency in saccharification of biomass

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Cell-wall recalcitrance to hydrolysis still represents one of the major bottlenecks for second-generation bioethanol production. This occurs despite the development of pre-treatments, the prospect of new enzymes, and the production of transgenic plants with less-recalcitrant cell walls. Recalcitrance, which is the intrinsic resistance to breakdown imposed by polymer assembly, is the result of inherent limitations in its three domains. These consist of: (i) porosity, associated with a pectin matrix impairing trafficking through the wall; (ii) the glycomic code, which refers to the fine-structural emergent complexity of cell-wall polymers that are unique to cells, tissues, and species; and (iii) cellulose crystallinity, which refers to the organization in micro- and/or macrofibrils. One way to circumvent recalcitrance could be by following cell-wall hydrolysis strategies underlying plant endogenous mechanisms that are optimized to precisely modify cell walls in planta. Thus, the cell-wall degradation that occurs during fruit ripening, abscission, storage cell-wall mobilization, and aerenchyma formation are reviewed in order to highlight how plants deal with recalcitrance and which are the routes to couple prospective enzymes and cocktail designs with cell-wall features. The manipulation of key enzyme levels in planta can help achieving biologically pre-treated walls (i.e. less recalcitrant) before plants are harvested for bioethanol production. This may be helpful in decreasing the costs associated with producing bioethanol from biomass.

Keywords: Abscission; aerenchyma; bioenergy; cell wall; cell-wall polysaccharide; fruit ripening; pre-treatment; recalcitrance storage mobilization.

Journal Article.  9374 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Plant Sciences and Forestry

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