Gene alteration study raises hopes of affordable biofuel production

Gene alteration study raises hopes of affordable biofuel production

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Prof. Debra Mohnen (Credit: Paul Efland/ UG)
Professor Debra Mohnen, biochemistry and molecular biology professor, University of Georgia
et al., found that by manipulating a certain gene in the tree commonly known as the eastern cottonwood, the structure of the plant cell walls are easier to break down, potentially overcoming a major obstacle to more affordable biofuel production. The study was published in Biotechnology for Biofuels, wherein the researchers described how decreasing the expression of a gene called GAUT 12.1 lead to a reduction in xylan and pectin, two vital components of plant cell walls that make them resistant to enzymes and chemicals used to remove a fermentable sugars used to emanate biofuels. The team, led by the study’s lead author Ajaya Biswal, an assistant research scientist in Mohnen’s lab, achieved their original goal of finding a way to make the cells of the eastern cottonwood easier to deconstruct to extract the fermentable sugars used to generate biofuels.The researchers tested their supposition on a class of tree called Populus deltoides, also known as
eastern cottonwood. Working together with colleagues in BioEnergy Science Center, they combined 11 transgenic trees in which GAUT12.1 was reduced by approximately 50 percent. This tree class is quite appealing to a biofuel attention since it grows comparatively fast and produces vast quantities of biomass in a brief duration of time. The plants they tested displayed between 12 and 52 percent increasing plant tallness and between 12 and 44 percent incomparable branch hole when compared to controls. Faster flourishing plants would produce more biomass over a shorter duration of time, making them more appealing to both growers and a biofuel industry.