Overexpression of a rice BAHD acyltransferase gene in switchgrass (Panicum virgatum L.) enhances saccharification.
ABSTRACT: BACKGROUND:Switchgrass (Panicum virgatum L.) is a promising bioenergy feedstock because it can be grown on marginal land and produces abundant biomass. Recalcitrance of the lignocellulosic components of the switchgrass cell wall to enzymatic degradation into simple sugars impedes efficient biofuel production. We previously demonstrated that overexpression of OsAT10, a BAHD acyltransferase gene, enhances saccharification efficiency in rice. RESULTS:Here we show that overexpression of the rice OsAT10 gene in switchgrass decreased the levels of cell wall-bound ferulic acid (FA) in green leaf tissues and to a lesser extent in senesced tissues, and significantly increased levels of cell wall-bound p-coumaric acid (p-CA) in green leaves but decreased its level in senesced tissues of the T0 plants under greenhouse conditions. The engineered switchgrass lines exhibit an approximate 40% increase in saccharification efficiency in green tissues and a 30% increase in senesced tissues. CONCLUSION:Our study demonstrates that overexpression of OsAT10, a rice BAHD acyltransferase gene, enhances saccharification of lignocellulosic biomass in switchgrass.
Project description:<h4>Background</h4>Genetic engineering of switchgrass (<i>Panicum virgatum</i> L.) for reduced cell wall recalcitrance and improved biofuel production has been a long pursued goal. Up to now, constitutive promoters have been used to direct the expression of cell wall biosynthesis genes toward attaining that goal. While generally sufficient to gauge a transgene's effects in the heterologous host, constitutive overexpression often leads to undesirable plant phenotypic effects. Green tissue-specific promoters from switchgrass are potentially valuable to directly alter cell wall traits exclusively in harvestable aboveground biomass while not changing root phenotypes.<h4>Results</h4>We identified and functionally characterized three switchgrass green tissue-specific promoters and assessed marker gene expression patterns and intensity in stably transformed rice (<i>Oryza sativa</i> L.), and then used them to direct the expression of the switchgrass <i>MYB4</i> (<i>PvMYB4</i>) transcription factor gene in transgenic switchgrass to endow reduced recalcitrance in aboveground biomass. These promoters correspond to photosynthesis-related light-harvesting complex II chlorophyll-a/b binding gene (<i>PvLhcb</i>), phosphoenolpyruvate carboxylase (<i>PvPEPC</i>), and the photosystem II 10 kDa R subunit (<i>PvPsbR</i>). Real-time RT-PCR analysis detected their strong expression in the aboveground tissues including leaf blades, leaf sheaths, internodes, inflorescences, and nodes of switchgrass, which was tightly up-regulated by light. Stable transgenic rice expressing the <i>GUS</i> reporter under the control of each promoter (756-2005 bp in length) further confirmed their strong expression patterns in leaves and stems. With the exception of the serial promoter deletions of <i>PvLhcb</i>, all <i>GUS</i> marker patterns under the control of each 5'-end serial promoter deletion were not different from that conveyed by their respective promoters. All of the shortest promoter fragments (199-275 bp in length) conveyed strong green tissue-specific <i>GUS</i> expression in transgenic rice. <i>PvMYB4</i> is a master repressor of lignin biosynthesis. The green tissue-specific expression of <i>PvMYB4</i> via each promoter in transgenic switchgrass led to significant gains in saccharification efficiency, decreased lignin, and decreased S/G lignin ratios. In contrast to constitutive overexpression of <i>PvMYB4</i>, which negatively impacts switchgrass root growth, plant growth was not compromised in green tissue-expressed <i>PvMYB4</i> switchgrass plants in the current study.<h4>Conclusions</h4>Each of the newly described green tissue-specific promoters from switchgrass has utility to change cell wall biosynthesis exclusively in aboveground harvestable biomass without altering root systems. The truncated green tissue promoters are very short and should be useful for targeted expression in a number of monocots to improve shoot traits while restricting gene expression from roots. Green tissue-specific expression of <i>PvMYB4</i> is an effective strategy for improvement of transgenic feedstocks.
Project description:Switchgrass (Panicum virgatum L.) is a leading lignocellulosic bioenergy feedstock. Cellulose is a major component of the plant cell walls and the primary substrate for saccharification. Accessibility of cellulose to enzymatic breakdown into fermentable sugars is limited by the presence of lignin in the plant cell wall. In this study, putatively novel switchgrass secondary cell wall cellulose synthase PvCesA4 and primary cell wall PvCesA6 genes were identified and their functional role in cellulose synthesis and cell wall composition was examined by overexpression and knockdown of the individual genes in switchgrass. The endogenous expression of PvCesA4 and PvCesA6 genes varied among including roots, leaves, stem, and reproductive tissues. Increasing or decreasing PvCesA4 and PvCesA6 expression to extreme levels in the transgenic lines resulted in decreased biomass production. PvCesA6-overexpressing lines had reduced lignin content and syringyl/guaiacyl lignin monomer ratio accompanied by increased sugar release efficiency, suggesting an impact of PvCesA6 expression levels on lignin biosynthesis. Cellulose content and cellulose crystallinity were decreased, while xylan content was increased in PvCesA4 and PvCesA6 overexpression or knockdown lines. The increase in xylan content suggests that the amount of non-cellulosic cell wall polysaccharide was modified in these plants. Taken together, the results show that the manipulation of the cellulose synthase genes alters the cell wall composition and availability of cellulose as a bioprocessing substrate.
Project description:Second-generation biofuels are generally produced from the polysaccharides in the lignocellulosic plant biomass, mainly cellulose. However, because cellulose is embedded in a matrix of other polysaccharides and lignin, its hydrolysis into the fermentable glucose is hampered. The senesced inflorescence stems of a set of 20 Arabidopsis thaliana mutants in 10 different genes of the lignin biosynthetic pathway were analyzed for cell wall composition and saccharification yield. Saccharification models were built to elucidate which cell wall parameters played a role in cell wall recalcitrance.Although lignin is a key polymer providing the strength necessary for the plant's ability to grow upward, a reduction in lignin content down to 64% of the wild-type level in Arabidopsis was tolerated without any obvious growth penalty. In contrast to common perception, we found that a reduction in lignin was not compensated for by an increase in cellulose, but rather by an increase in matrix polysaccharides. In most lignin mutants, the saccharification yield was improved by up to 88% cellulose conversion for the cinnamoyl-coenzyme A reductase1 mutants under pretreatment conditions, whereas the wild-type cellulose conversion only reached 18%. The saccharification models and Pearson correlation matrix revealed that the lignin content was the main factor determining the saccharification yield. However, also lignin composition, matrix polysaccharide content and composition, and, especially, the xylose, galactose, and arabinose contents influenced the saccharification yield. Strikingly, cellulose content did not significantly affect saccharification yield.Although the lignin content had the main effect on saccharification, also other cell wall factors could be engineered to potentially increase the cell wall processability, such as the galactose content. Our results contribute to a better understanding of the effect of lignin perturbations on plant cell wall composition and its influence on saccharification yield, and provide new potential targets for genetic improvement.
Project description:Three lignocellulosic pretreatment techniques (ammonia fiber expansion, dilute acid and ionic liquid) are compared with respect to saccharification efficiency, particle size and biomass composition. In particular, the effects of switchgrass particle size (32-200) on each pretreatment regime are examined. Physical properties of untreated and pretreated samples are characterized using crystallinity, surface accessibility measurements and scanning electron microscopy (SEM) imaging. At every particle size tested, ionic liquid (IL) pretreatment results in greater cell wall disruption, reduced crystallinity, increased accessible surface area, and higher saccharification efficiencies compared with dilute acid and AFEX pretreatments. The advantages of using IL pretreatment are greatest at larger particle sizes (>75 µm).
Project description:Background: Switchgrass (Panicum virgatum L.) is a C4 perennial prairie grass and a dedicated feedstock for lignocellulosic biofuels. Saccharification and biofuel yields are inhibited by the plant cell wall's natural recalcitrance against enzymatic degradation. Plant hemicellulose polysaccharides such as arabinoxylans structurally support and cross-link other cell wall polymers. Grasses predominately have Type II cell walls that are abundant in arabinoxylan, which comprise nearly 25% of aboveground biomass. A primary component of arabinoxylan synthesis is uridine diphosphate (UDP) linked to arabinofuranose (Araf). A family of UDP-arabinopyranose mutase (UAM)/reversible glycosylated polypeptides catalyze the interconversion between UDP-arabinopyranose (UDP-Arap) and UDP-Araf. Results: The expression of a switchgrass arabinoxylan biosynthesis pathway gene, PvUAM1, was decreased via RNAi to investigate its role in cell wall recalcitrance in the feedstock. PvUAM1 encodes a switchgrass homolog of UDP-arabinose mutase, which converts UDP-Arap to UDP-Araf. Southern blot analysis revealed each transgenic line contained between one to at least seven T-DNA insertions, resulting in some cases, a 95% reduction of native PvUAM1 transcript in stem internodes. Transgenic plants had increased pigmentation in vascular tissues at nodes, but were otherwise similar in morphology to the non-transgenic control. Cell wall-associated arabinose was decreased in leaves and stems by over 50%, but there was an increase in cellulose. In addition, there was a commensurate change in arabinose side chain extension. Cell wall lignin composition was altered with a concurrent increase in lignin content and transcript abundance of lignin biosynthetic genes in mature tillers. Enzymatic saccharification efficiency was unchanged in the transgenic plants relative to the control. Conclusion: Plants with attenuated PvUAM1 transcript had increased cellulose and lignin in cell walls. A decrease in cell wall-associated arabinose was expected, which was likely caused by fewer Araf residues in the arabinoxylan. The decrease in arabinoxylan may cause a compensation response to maintain cell wall integrity by increasing cellulose and lignin biosynthesis. In cases in which increased lignin is desired, e.g., feedstocks for carbon fiber production, downregulated UAM1 coupled with altered expression of other arabinoxylan biosynthesis genes might result in even higher production of lignin in biomass.
Project description:Rice is the staple food of almost half of the world population, and in excess 90% of it is grown and consumed in Asia, but the disposal of rice straw poses a problem for farmers, who often burn it in the fields, causing health and environmental problems. However, with increased focus on the development of sustainable biofuel production, rice straw has been recognized as a potential feedstock for non-food derived biofuel production. Currently, the commercial realization of rice as a biofuel feedstock is constrained by the high cost of industrial saccharification processes needed to release sugar for fermentation. This study is focused on the alteration of lignin content, and cell wall chemotypes and structures, and their effects on the saccharification potential of rice lignocellulosic biomass. A recombinant inbred lines (RILs) population derived from a cross between the lowland rice variety IR1552 and the upland rice variety Azucena with 271 molecular markers for quantitative trait SNP (QTS) analyses was used. After association analysis of 271 markers for saccharification potential, 1 locus and 4 pairs of epistatic loci were found to contribute to the enzymatic digestibility phenotype, and an inverse relationship between reducing sugar and lignin content in these recombinant inbred lines was identified. As a result of QTS analyses, several cell-wall associated candidate genes are proposed that may be useful for marker-assisted breeding and may aid breeders to produce potential high saccharification rice varieties.
Project description:<h4>Background</h4>Wheat and rice are important food crops with enormous biomass residues for biofuels. However, lignocellulosic recalcitrance becomes a crucial factor on biomass process. Plant cell walls greatly determine biomass recalcitrance, thus it is essential to identify their key factors on lignocellulose saccharification. Despite it has been reported about cell wall factors on biomass digestions, little is known in wheat and rice. In this study, we analyzed nine typical pairs of wheat and rice samples that exhibited distinct cell wall compositions, and identified three major factors of wall polymer features that affected biomass digestibility.<h4>Results</h4>Based on cell wall compositions, ten wheat accessions and three rice mutants were classified into three distinct groups each with three typical pairs. In terms of group I that displayed single wall polymer alternations in wheat, we found that three wall polymer levels (cellulose, hemicelluloses and lignin) each had a negative effect on biomass digestibility at similar rates under pretreatments of NaOH and H2SO4 with three concentrations. However, analysis of six pairs of wheat and rice samples in groups II and III that each exhibited a similar cell wall composition, indicated that three wall polymer levels were not the major factors on biomass saccharification. Furthermore, in-depth detection of the wall polymer features distinctive in rice mutants, demonstrated that biomass digestibility was remarkably affected either negatively by cellulose crystallinity (CrI) of raw biomass materials, or positively by both Ara substitution degree of non-KOH-extractable hemicelluloses (reverse Xyl/Ara) and p-coumaryl alcohol relative proportion of KOH-extractable lignin (H/G). Correlation analysis indicated that Ara substitution degree and H/G ratio negatively affected cellulose crystallinity for high biomass enzymatic digestion. It was also suggested to determine whether Ara and H monomer have an interlinking with cellulose chains in the future.<h4>Conclusions</h4>Using nine typical pairs of wheat and rice samples having distinct cell wall compositions and wide biomass saccharification, Ara substitution degree and monolignin H proportion have been revealed to be the dominant factors positively determining biomass digestibility upon various chemical pretreatments. The results demonstrated the potential of genetic modification of plant cell walls for high biomass saccharification in bioenergy crops.
Project description:<h4>Background</h4> The development of bioenergy crops with reduced recalcitrance to enzymatic degradation represents an important challenge to enable the sustainable production of advanced biofuels and bioproducts. Biomass recalcitrance is partly attributed to the complex structure of plant cell walls inside which cellulose microfibrils are protected by a network of hemicellulosic xylan chains that crosslink with each other or with lignin via ferulate (FA) bridges. Overexpression of the rice acyltransferase OsAT10 is an effective bioengineering strategy to lower the amount of FA involved in the formation of cell wall crosslinks and thereby reduce cell wall recalcitrance. The annual crop sorghum represents an attractive feedstock for bioenergy purposes considering its high biomass yields and low input requirements. Although we previously validated the OsAT10 engineering approach in the perennial bioenergy crop switchgrass, the effect of OsAT10 expression on biomass composition and digestibility in sorghum remains to be explored. <h4>Results</h4> We obtained eight independent sorghum (Sorghum bicolor (L.) Moench) transgenic lines with a single copy of a construct designed for OsAT10 expression. Consistent with the proposed role of OsAT10 in acylating arabinosyl residues on xylan with p-coumarate (pCA), a higher amount of p-coumaroyl-arabinose was released from the cell walls of these lines upon hydrolysis with trifluoroacetic acid. However, no major changes were observed regarding the total amount of pCA or FA esters released from cell walls upon mild alkaline hydrolysis. Certain diferulate (diFA) isomers identified in alkaline hydrolysates were increased in some transgenic lines. The amount of the main cell wall monosaccharides glucose, xylose, and arabinose was unaffected. The transgenic lines showed reduced lignin content and their biomass released higher yields of sugars after ionic liquid pretreatment followed by enzymatic saccharification. <h4>Conclusions</h4> Expression of OsAT10 in sorghum leads to an increase of xylan-bound pCA without reducing the overall content of cell wall FA esters. Nevertheless, the amount of total cell wall pCA remains unchanged indicating that most pCA is ester-linked to lignin. Unlike other engineered plants overexpressing OsAT10 or a phylogenetically related acyltransferase with similar putative function, the improvements of biomass saccharification efficiency in sorghum OsAT10 lines are likely the result of lignin reductions rather than reductions of cell wall-bound FA. These results also suggest a relationship between xylan-bound pCA and lignification in cell walls. <h4>Supplementary Information</h4> The online version contains supplementary material available at 10.1186/s13068-021-02068-9.
Project description:Background:The conversion of lignocellulosic biomass from agricultural waste into biofuels and chemicals is considered a promising way to provide sustainable low carbon products without compromising food security. However, the use of lignocellulosic biomass for biofuel and chemical production is limited by the cost-effectiveness of the production process due to its recalcitrance to enzymatic hydrolysis and fermentable sugar release (i.e., saccharification). Rice straw is a particularly attractive feedstock because millions of tons are currently burned in the field each year for disposal. The aim of this study was to explore the underlying natural genetic variation that impacts the recalcitrance of rice (Oryza sativa) straw to enzymatic saccharification. Ultimately, we wanted to investigate whether we could identify genetic markers that could be used in rice breeding to improve commercial cultivars for this trait. Here, we describe the development and characterization of a Vietnamese rice genome-wide association panel, high-throughput analysis of rice straw saccharification and lignin content, and the results from preliminary genome-wide association studies (GWAS) of the combined data sets. We identify both QTL and plausible candidate genes that may have an impact on the saccharification of rice straw. Results:We assembled a diversity panel comprising 151 rice genotypes (Indica and Japonica types) from commercial, historical elite cultivars, and traditional landraces grown in Vietnam. The diversity panel was genotyped using genotype by sequencing (GBS) methods yielding a total of 328,915 single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs). We collected phenotypic data from stems of these 151 genotypes for biomass saccharification and lignin content. Using GWAS on the indica genotypes over 2 years we identified ten significant QTL for saccharification (digestibility) and seven significant QTL for lignin. One QTL on chromosome 11 occurred in both GWAS for digestibility and for lignin. Seven QTL for digestibility, on CH2, CH6, CH7, CH8, and CH11, were observed in both years of the study. The QTL regions for saccharification include three potential candidate genes that have been previously reported to influence digestibility: OsAT10; OsIRX9; and OsMYB58/63-L. Conclusions:Despite the difficulties associated with multi-phasic analysis of complex traits in novel germplasm, a moderate resolution GWAS successfully identified genetic associations encompassing both known and/or novel genes involved in determining the saccharification potential and lignin content of rice straw. Plausible candidates within QTL regions, in particular those with roles in cell wall biosynthesis, were identified but will require validation to confirm their value for application in rice breeding.
Project description:BACKGROUND: R2R3 MYB proteins constitute one of the largest plant transcription factor clades and regulate diverse plant-specific processes. Several R2R3 MYB proteins act as regulators of secondary cell wall (SCW) biosynthesis in Arabidopsis thaliana (At), a dicotyledenous plant. Relatively few studies have examined SCW R2R3 MYB function in grasses, which may have diverged from dicots in terms of SCW regulatory mechanisms, as they have in cell wall composition and patterning. Understanding cell wall regulation is especially important for improving lignocellulosic bioenergy crops, such as switchgrass. RESULTS: Here, we describe the results of applying phylogenic, OrthoMCL, and sequence identity analyses to classify the R2R3 MYB family proteins from the annotated proteomes of Arabidposis, poplar, rice, maize and the initial genome (v0.0) and translated transcriptome of switchgrass (Panicum virgatum). We find that the R2R3 MYB proteins of the five species fall into 48 subgroups, including three dicot-specific, six grass-specific, and two panicoid grass-expanded subgroups. We observe four classes of phylogenetic relationships within the subgroups of known SCW-regulating MYB proteins between Arabidopsis and rice, ranging from likely one-to-one orthology (for AtMYB26, AtMYB103, AtMYB69) to no homologs identifiable (for AtMYB75). Microarray data for putative switchgrass SCW MYBs indicate that many maintain similar expression patterns with the Arabidopsis SCW regulators. However, some of the switchgrass-expanded candidate SCW MYBs exhibit differences in gene expression patterns among paralogs, consistent with subfunctionalization. Furthermore, some switchgrass representatives of grass-expanded clades have gene expression patterns consistent with regulating SCW development. CONCLUSIONS: Our analysis suggests that no single comparative genomics tool is able to provide a complete picture of the R2R3 MYB protein family without leaving ambiguities, and establishing likely false-negative and -positive relationships, but that used together a relatively clear view emerges. Generally, we find that most R2R3 MYBs that regulate SCW in Arabidopsis are likely conserved in the grasses. This comparative analysis of the R2R3 MYB family will facilitate transfer of understanding of regulatory mechanisms among species and enable control of SCW biosynthesis in switchgrass toward improving its biomass quality.