ABSTRACT: Lignins are complex phenylpropanoid polymers mostly associated with plant secondary cell walls. Lignins arise primarily via oxidative polymerization of the three monolignols, p-coumaryl, coniferyl, and sinapyl alcohols. Of the two hydroxycinnamyl alcohols that represent incompletely methylated biosynthetic products (and are not usually considered to be monolignols), 5-hydroxyconiferyl alcohol is now well established as incorporating into angiosperm lignins, but incorporation of caffeyl alcohol has not been shown. We report here the presence of a homopolymer of caffeyl alcohol in the seed coats of both monocot and dicot plants. This polymer (C-lignin) is deposited to high concentrations in the seed coat during the early stages of seed development in the vanilla orchid (Vanilla planifolia), and in several members of the Cactaceae. The lignin in other parts of the Vanilla plant is conventionally biosynthesized from coniferyl and sinapyl alcohols. Some species of cacti contain only C-lignin in their seeds, whereas others contain only classical guaiacyl/syringyl lignin (derived from coniferyl and sinapyl alcohols). NMR spectroscopic analysis revealed that the Vanilla seed-coat polymer was massively comprised of benzodioxane units and was structurally similar to the polymer synthesized in vitro by peroxidase-catalyzed polymerization of caffeyl alcohol. CD spectroscopy did not detect any optical activity in the seed polymer. These data support the contention that the C-lignin polymer is produced in vivo via combinatorial oxidative radical coupling that is under simple chemical control, a mechanism analogous to that theorized for classical lignin biosynthesis.
Project description:There is considerable debate over the capacity of the cell wall polymer lignin to incorporate unnatural monomer units. We have identified Tnt1 retrotransposon insertion mutants of barrel medic (Medicago truncatula) that show reduced lignin autofluorescence under UV microscopy and red coloration in interfascicular fibers. The phenotype is caused by insertion of retrotransposons into a gene annotated as encoding cinnamyl alcohol dehydrogenase, here designated M. truncatula CAD1. NMR analysis indicated that the lignin is derived almost exclusively from coniferaldehyde and sinapaldehyde and is therefore strikingly different from classical lignins, which are derived mainly from coniferyl and sinapyl alcohols. Despite such a major alteration in lignin structure, the plants appear normal under standard conditions in the greenhouse or growth chamber. However, the plants are dwarfed when grown at 30 °C. Glycome profiling revealed an increased extractability of some xylan and pectin epitopes from the cell walls of the cad1-1 mutant but decreased extractability of others, suggesting that aldehyde-dominant lignin significantly alters cell wall structure.
Project description:Lignins are aromatic heteropolymers that arise from oxidative coupling of lignin precursors, including lignin monomers (p-coumaryl, coniferyl, and sinapyl alcohols), oligomers, and polymers. Whereas plant peroxidases have been shown to catalyze oxidative coupling of monolignols, the oxidation activity of well-studied plant peroxidases, such as horseradish peroxidase C (HRP-C) and AtPrx53, are quite low for sinapyl alcohol. This characteristic difference has led to controversy regarding the oxidation mechanism of sinapyl alcohol and lignin oligomers and polymers by plant peroxidases. The present study explored the oxidation activities of three plant peroxidases, AtPrx2, AtPrx25, and AtPrx71, which have been already shown to be involved in lignification in the Arabidopsis stem. Recombinant proteins of these peroxidases (rAtPrxs) were produced in Escherichia coli as inclusion bodies and successfully refolded to yield their active forms. rAtPrx2, rAtPrx25, and rAtPrx71 were found to oxidize two syringyl compounds (2,6-dimethoxyphenol and syringaldazine), which were employed here as model monolignol compounds, with higher specific activities than HRP-C and rAtPrx53. Interestingly, rAtPrx2 and rAtPrx71 oxidized syringyl compounds more efficiently than guaiacol. Moreover, assays with ferrocytochrome c as a substrate showed that AtPrx2, AtPrx25, and AtPrx71 possessed the ability to oxidize large molecules. This characteristic may originate in a protein radical. These results suggest that the plant peroxidases responsible for lignin polymerization are able to directly oxidize all lignin precursors.
Project description:Lignin is a phenylpropanoid polymer produced in the secondary cell walls of vascular plants. Although most eudicot and gymnosperm species generate lignins solely via polymerization of p-hydroxycinnamyl alcohols (monolignols), grasses additionally use a flavone, tricin, as a natural lignin monomer to generate tricin-incorporated lignin polymers in cell walls. We previously found that disruption of a rice 5-HYDROXYCONIFERALDEHYDE O-METHYLTRANSFERASE (OsCAldOMT1) reduced extractable tricin-type metabolites in rice vegetative tissues. This same enzyme has also been implicated in the biosynthesis of sinapyl alcohol, a monolignol that constitutes syringyl lignin polymer units. Here, we further demonstrate through in-depth cell wall structural analyses that OsCAldOMT1-deficient rice plants produce altered lignins largely depleted in both syringyl and tricin units. We also show that recombinant OsCAldOMT1 displayed comparable substrate specificities towards both 5-hydroxyconiferaldehyde and selgin intermediates in the monolignol and tricin biosynthetic pathways, respectively. These data establish OsCAldOMT1 as a bifunctional O-methyltransferase predominantly involved in the two parallel metabolic pathways both dedicated to the biosynthesis of tricin-lignins in rice cell walls. Given that cell wall digestibility was greatly enhanced in the OsCAldOMT1-deficient rice plants, genetic manipulation of CAldOMTs conserved in grasses may serve as a potent strategy to improve biorefinery applications of grass biomass.
Project description:Lignin is a major component of plant cell walls that is essential to their function. However, the strong bonds that bind the various subunits of lignin, and its cross-linking with other plant cell wall polymers, make it one of the most important factors in the recalcitrance of plant cell walls against polysaccharide utilization. Plants make lignin from a variety of monolignols including p-coumaryl, coniferyl, and sinapyl alcohols to produce the three primary lignin units: p-hydroxyphenyl, guaiacyl, and syringyl, respectively, when incorporated into the lignin polymer. In grasses, these monolignols can be enzymatically preacylated by p-coumarates prior to their incorporation into lignin, and these monolignol conjugates can also be "monomer" precursors of lignin. Although monolignol p-coumarate-derived units may comprise up to 40% of the lignin in some grass tissues, the p-coumarate moiety from such conjugates does not enter into the radical coupling (polymerization) reactions of lignification. With a greater understanding of monolignol p-coumarate conjugates, grass lignins could be engineered to contain fewer pendent p-coumarate groups and more monolignol conjugates that improve lignin cleavage. We have cloned and expressed an enzyme from rice that has p-coumarate monolignol transferase activity and determined its kinetic parameters.
Project description:Lignin in plant biomass represents a target for engineering strategies towards the development of a sustainable bioeconomy. In addition to the conventional lignin monomers, namely p-coumaryl, coniferyl and sinapyl alcohols, tricin has been shown to be part of the native lignin polymer in certain monocot species. Because tricin is considered to initiate the polymerization of lignin chains, elucidating its biosynthesis and mechanism of export to the cell wall constitute novel challenges for the engineering of bioenergy crops. Late steps of tricin biosynthesis require two methylation reactions involving the pathway intermediate selgin. It has recently been demonstrated in rice and maize that caffeate O-methyltransferase (COMT) involved in the synthesis syringyl (S) lignin units derived from sinapyl alcohol also participates in the synthesis of tricin in planta. In this work, we validate in sorghum (Sorghum bicolor L.) that the O-methyltransferase responsible for the production of S lignin units (SbCOMT / Bmr12) is also involved in the synthesis of lignin-linked tricin. In particular, we show that biomass from the sorghum bmr12 mutant contains lower level of tricin incorporated into lignin, and that SbCOMT can methylate the tricin precursors luteolin and selgin. Our genetic and biochemical data point toward a general mechanism whereby COMT is involved in the synthesis of both tricin and S lignin units.
Project description:Lignin is derived mainly from three alcohol monomers: p-coumaryl alcohol, coniferyl alcohol and sinapyl alcohol. Biochemical reactions probably responsible for synthesizing these three monomers from sucrose, and then polymerizing the monomers into lignin, were analysed to estimate the amount of sucrose required to produce a unit of lignin. Included in the calculations were amounts of respiration required to provide NADPH (from NADP(+)) and ATP (from ADP) for lignin biosynthesis. Two pathways in the middle stage of monomer biosynthesis were considered: one via tyrosine (found in monocots) and the other via phenylalanine (found in all plants). If lignin biosynthesis proceeds with high efficiency via tyrosine, 76.9, 70.4 and 64.3 % of the carbon in sucrose can be retained in the fraction of lignin derived from p-coumaryl alcohol, coniferyl alcohol and sinapyl alcohol, respectively. The corresponding carbon retention values for lignin biosynthesis via phenylalanine are less, at 73.2, 65.7 and 60.7 %, respectively. Energy (i.e. heat of combustion) retention during lignin biosynthesis via tyrosine could be as high as 81.6, 74.5 and 67.8 % for lignin derived from p-coumaryl alcohol, coniferyl alcohol and sinapyl alcohol, respectively, with the corresponding potential energy retention values for lignin biosynthesis via phenylalanine being less, at 77.7, 69.5 and 63.9 %, respectively. Whether maximum efficiency occurs in situ is unclear, but these values are targets that can be considered in: (1) plant breeding programmes aimed at maximizing carbon or energy retention from photosynthate; (2) analyses of (minimum) metabolic costs of responding to environmental change or pest attack involving increased lignin biosynthesis; (3) understanding costs of lignification in older tissues; and (4) interpreting carbon balance measurements of organs and plants with large lignin concentrations.
Project description:Of 17 genes annotated in the Arabidopsis genome database as cinnamyl alcohol dehydrogenase (CAD) homologues, an in silico analysis revealed that 8 genes were misannotated. Of the remaining nine, six were catalytically competent for NADPH-dependent reduction of p-coumaryl, caffeyl, coniferyl, 5-hydroxyconiferyl, and sinapyl aldehydes, whereas three displayed very low activity and only at very high substrate concentrations. Of the nine putative CADs, two (AtCAD5 and AtCAD4) had the highest activity and homology (approximately 83% similarity) relative to bona fide CADs from other species. AtCAD5 used all five substrates effectively, whereas AtCAD4 (of lower overall catalytic capacity) poorly used sinapyl aldehyde; the corresponding 270-fold decrease in k(enz) resulted from higher K(m) and lower k(cat) values, respectively. No CAD homologue displayed a specific requirement for sinapyl aldehyde, which was in direct contrast with unfounded claims for a so-called sinapyl alcohol dehydrogenase in angiosperms. AtCAD2, 3, as well as AtCAD7 and 8 (highest homology to sinapyl alcohol dehydrogenase) were catalytically less active overall by at least an order of magnitude, due to increased K(m) and lower k(cat) values. Accordingly, alternative and/or bifunctional metabolic roles of these proteins in plant defense cannot be ruled out. Comprehensive analyses of lignified tissues of various Arabidopsis knockout mutants (for AtCAD5, 6, and 9) at different stages of growth/development indicated the presence of functionally redundant CAD metabolic networks. Moreover, disruption of AtCAD5 expression had only a small effect on either overall lignin amounts deposited, or on syringyl-guaiacyl compositions, despite being the most catalytically active form in vitro.
Project description:Conifers (softwoods) naturally lack syringyl units in their lignins, rendering lignocellulosic materials from such species more difficult to process than syringyl-rich hardwood species. Using a transformable Pinus radiata tracheary element (TE) system as an experimental platform, we investigated whether metabolic engineering can be used to create syringyl lignin in conifers. Pyrolysis-GC/MS and 2D-NMR analysis of P. radiata TE cultures transformed to express ferulate 5-hydroxylase (F5H) and caffeic acid O-methyltransferase (COMT) from Liquidambar styraciflua confirmed the production and incorporation of sinapyl alcohol into the lignin polymer. Transformation with F5H was sufficient for the production of syringyl lignin in TEs, but cotransformation with COMT improved its formation. In addition, lower levels of the pathway intermediate 5-hydroxyconiferyl alcohol were evidenced in cotransformation experiments, indicating that the introduction of the COMT overcame the inefficiency of the native pine methyltransferases for supporting sinapyl alcohol production.Our results provide the proof of concept that it is possible to generate a lignin polymer that contains syringyl units in softwood species such as P. radiata, suggesting that it might be possible to retain the outstanding fiber properties of softwoods while imbuing them with the lignin characteristics of hardwoods that are more favorable for industrial processing.
Project description:BACKGROUND AND AIMS: Peroxidase isoenzymes play diverse roles in plant physiology, such as lignification and defence against pathogens. The actions and regulation of many peroxidases are not known with much accuracy. A number of studies have reported direct involvement of peroxidase isoenzymes in the oxidation of monolignols, which constitutes the last step in the lignin biosynthesis pathway. However, most of the available data concern only peroxidases and lignins from angiosperms. This study describes the molecular cloning of two novel peroxidases from the 'living fossil' Ginkgo biloba and their regulation by salt stress and salicylic acid. METHODS: Suspension cell cultures were used to purify peroxidases and to obtain the cDNAs. Treatments with salicylic acid and sodium chloride were performed and peroxidase activity and gene expression were monitored. KEY RESULTS: A novel peroxidase was purified, which preferentially used p-hydroxycinnamyl alcohols as substrates and was able to form dehydrogenation polymers in vitro from coniferyl and sinapyl alcohols. Two peroxidase full-length cDNAs, GbPrx09 and GbPrx10, were cloned. Both peroxidases showed high similarity to other basic peroxidases with a putative role in cell wall lignification. Both GbPrx09 and GbPrx10 were expressed in leaves and stems of the plant. Sodium chloride enhanced the gene expression of GbPrx09 but repressed GbPrx10, whereas salicylic acid strongly repressed both GbPrx09 and GbPrx10. CONCLUSIONS: Taken together, the data suggest the participation of GbPrx09 and GbPrx10 in the developmental lignification programme of the cell wall. Both peroxidases possess the structural characteristics necessary for sinapyl alcohol oxidation. Moreover, GbPrx09 is also involved in lignification induced by salt stress, while salicylic acid-mediated lignification is not a result of GbPrx09 and GbPrx10 enzymatic activity.
Project description:A central question in lignin biosynthesis is how guaiacyl intermediates are hydroxylated and methylated to the syringyl monolignol in angiosperms. To address this question, we cloned cDNAs encoding a cytochrome P450 monooxygenase (LsM88) and a caffeate O-methyltransferase (COMT) from sweetgum (Liquidambar styraciflua) xylem. Mass spectrometry-based functional analysis of LsM88 in yeast identified it as coniferyl aldehyde 5-hydroxylase (CAld5H). COMT expressed in Escherichia coli methylated 5-hydroxyconiferyl aldehyde to sinapyl aldehyde. Together, CAld5H and COMT converted coniferyl aldehyde to sinapyl aldehyde, suggesting a CAld5H/COMT-mediated pathway from guaiacyl to syringyl monolignol biosynthesis via coniferyl aldehyde that contrasts with the generally accepted route to sinapate via ferulate. Although the CAld5H/COMT enzyme system can mediate the biosynthesis of syringyl monolignol intermediates through either route, k(cat)/K(m) of CAld5H for coniferyl aldehyde was approximately 140 times greater than that for ferulate. More significantly, when coniferyl aldehyde and ferulate were present together, coniferyl aldehyde was a noncompetitive inhibitor (K(i) = 0.59 microM) of ferulate 5-hydroxylation, thereby eliminating the entire reaction sequence from ferulate to sinapate. In contrast, ferulate had no effect on coniferyl aldehyde 5-hydroxylation. 5-Hydroxylation also could not be detected for feruloyl-CoA or coniferyl alcohol. Therefore, in the presence of coniferyl aldehyde, ferulate 5-hydroxylation does not occur, and the syringyl monolignol can be synthesized only from coniferyl aldehyde. Endogenous coniferyl, 5-hydroxyconiferyl, and sinapyl aldehydes were detected, consistent with in vivo operation of the CAld5H/COMT pathway from coniferyl to sinapyl aldehydes via 5-hydroxyconiferyl aldehyde for syringyl monolignol biosynthesis.