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Lignin depletion enhances the digestibility of cellulose in cultured xylem cells.


ABSTRACT: Plant lignocellulose constitutes an abundant and sustainable source of polysaccharides that can be converted into biofuels. However, the enzymatic digestion of native plant cell walls is inefficient, presenting a considerable barrier to cost-effective biofuel production. In addition to the insolubility of cellulose and hemicellulose, the tight association of lignin with these polysaccharides intensifies the problem of cell wall recalcitrance. To determine the extent to which lignin influences the enzymatic digestion of cellulose, specifically in secondary walls that contain the majority of cellulose and lignin in plants, we used a model system consisting of cultured xylem cells from Zinniaelegans. Rather than using purified cell wall substrates or plant tissue, we have applied this system to study cell wall degradation because it predominantly consists of homogeneous populations of single cells exhibiting large deposits of lignocellulose. We depleted lignin in these cells by treating with an oxidative chemical or by inhibiting lignin biosynthesis, and then examined the resulting cellulose digestibility and accessibility using a fluorescent cellulose-binding probe. Following cellulase digestion, we measured a significant decrease in relative cellulose content in lignin-depleted cells, whereas cells with intact lignin remained essentially unaltered. We also observed a significant increase in probe binding after lignin depletion, indicating that decreased lignin levels improve cellulose accessibility. These results indicate that lignin depletion considerably enhances the digestibility of cellulose in the cell wall by increasing the susceptibility of cellulose to enzymatic attack. Although other wall components are likely to contribute, our quantitative study exploits cultured Zinnia xylem cells to demonstrate the dominant influence of lignin on the enzymatic digestion of the cell wall. This system is simple enough for quantitative image analysis, but realistic enough to capture the natural complexity of lignocellulose in the plant cell wall. Consequently, these cells represent a suitable model for analyzing native lignocellulose degradation.

SUBMITTER: Lacayo CI 

PROVIDER: S-EPMC3715489 | BioStudies | 2013-01-01

REPOSITORIES: biostudies

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