Improved Wood Properties Through Genetic Manipulation: Engineering of Syringyl Lignin in Softwood Species Through Xylem-Specific Expression of Hardwood Syringyl Monolignol Pathway Genes
Description: Project Objective: Our long-term goal is to genetically engineer higher value raw materials with desirable wood properties to promote energy efficiency, international competitiveness, and environmental responsiveness of the U.S. forest products industry. The immediate goal of this project was to produce the first higher value softwood raw materials engineered with a wide range of syringyl lignin quantities. Summary: The most important wood property affecting directly the levels of energy, chemical and bleaching requirements for kraft pulp production is lignin. Softwoods contain almost exclusively chemically resistant guaiacyl (G) lignin, whereas hardwoods have more reactive or easily degradable lignins of the guaiacyl (G)-syringyl (S) type. It is also well established that the reactive S lignin component is the key factor that permits much lower effective alkali and temperature, shorter pulping time and less bleaching stages for processing hardwoods than for softwoods. Furthermore, our pulping kinetic study explicitly demonstrated that every increase in one unit of the lignin S/G ratio would roughly double the rate of lignin removal. These are clear evidence that softwoods genetically engineered with S lignin are keys to revolutionizing the energy efficiency and enhancing the environmental performance of this industry. Softwoods and hardwoods share the same genetic mechanisms for the biosynthesis of G lignin. However, in hardwoods, three additional genes branch out from the G-lignin pathway and become specifically engaged in regulating S lignin biosynthesis. In this research, we simultaneously transferred aspen S-specific genes into a model softwood, black spruce, to engineer S lignin.
Date: January 29, 2009
Creator: Joshi, Chandrashekhar P. & Chiang, Vincent L.
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