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Increase in 4-coumaryl alcohol units during lignification in alfalfa (Medicago sativa) alters the extractability and molecular weight of lignin
journal contributionposted on 2010-12-10, 00:00 authored by Angela ZiebellAngela Ziebell, K Gracom, R Katahira, F Chen, Y Pu, A Ragauskas, R A Dixon, M Davis
The lignin content of biomass can impact the ease and cost of biomass processing. Lignin reduction through breeding and genetic modification therefore has potential to reduce costs in biomass-processing industries (e.g. pulp and paper, forage, and lignocellulosic ethanol). We investigated compositional changes in two low-lignin alfalfa (Medicago sativa) lines with antisense down-regulation of p-coumarate 3-hydroxylase (C3H) or hydroxycinnamoyl-CoA: shikimate hydroxycin-namoyltransferase (HCT). We investigated whether the difference in reactivity during lignification of 4-coumaryl alcohol (H) monomers versus the naturally dominant sinapyl alcohol and coniferyl alcohol lignin monomers alters the lignin structure. Sequential base extraction readily reduced the H monomer content of the transgenic lines, leaving a residual lignin greatly enriched in H subunits; the extraction profile high-lighted the difference between the control and transgenic lines. Gel permeation chromatography of isolated ball-milled lignin indicated significant changes in the weight average molecular weight distribution of the control versus transgenic lines (CTR1a, 6000; C3H4a, 5500; C3H9a, 4000; and HCT30a, 4000).