Insight into how cellulose is built to benefit biofuels

Insight into how cellulose is built to benefit biofuels

A thorough understanding of how plants make cellulose is a major component of most plant cell walls used in various man-made materials and may have a major impact on their application in biofuels. Researchers at Penn State University have identified the major steps in the process and the tools that plant cells use to make cellulose, including the delivery of key components to the cellulose-making site. A paper describing this research was published on the March 26 issue of the National Academy of Sciences.

"Cellulose is the most abundant biopolymer on the planet," said Associate Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at Penn State University, the senior author of the paper, Ying Gu. “It occupies 95% of paper and 90% of cotton, and its derivatives are even present in ice cream emulsifiers. Over the past 10 years, cellulose has also been considered as a major component of biofuels. Understanding how cellulose may be synthesized Enables us to optimize its use as a renewable energy source."

The cellulose in many daily products is mainly produced by plants. Despite the economic importance of cellulose, prior to this study, researchers had only a basic understanding of how plants created such rich resources.

"We know that cellulose is synthesized in the cytoplasmic membrane, which surrounds plant cells within a heterogeneous protein complex - a different group of proteins - called the cellulose synthase complex," Gu said. "But we don't know if other proteins are involved in the complex or how the protein enters the plasma membrane. To answer these questions, we used a combination of methods including cell imaging, functional genetics, and proteomics to create events. Table and identify the major proteins involved in the preparation of cell synthesis."

The researchers found that a protein called cellulose synthase interacting protein 1 (CSI1) interacts with the cellulose synthase complex before synthesis and may help to mark sites on the resulting plasma membrane. They also demonstrated that CSI1 interacts with a separate complex called a vesicle complex that participates in the transport of substances to the plasma membrane of various species and a protein called PATROL1. These components may help the cellulose synthase complex to rapidly spread to the outer membrane of the cell before it is synthesized.

"We know that cyst complexes are evolutionarily conserved. Their structure in yeasts and mammals remains largely unchanged. We have here confirmed its role in plants. But PATROL1 is a plant-specific protein, It is not the same as anything we see in mammals or yeast. We are puzzled by what PATROL1 actually does and are happy to continue to investigate its function."

Since CSI1 interacts with many components essential for cellulose synthesis, the research team plans to use it as a tool to further elucidate this important process and its evolution.

"We finally hope to be able to analyze how plant cells we know how to build cellulose, so that it can be decomposed more efficiently for biofuels," Gu said. "This will ultimately increase the efficiency of biomass energy production."

In addition to Gu, the research team also includes Xiaoyu Zhu of the University of California, Riverside, which was funded by the National Science Foundation (1121375). The Energy and Environment Institute and the Huck Life Sciences Institute provided additional support.

(Original from: Biomass Magazine)

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