From Brookhaven Lab: “Study Offers Insight into Delicate Biochemical Balance Required for Plant Growth”

Implications for producing sustainable biomass, biofuels, and food-processing agents

January 13, 2012
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“In an ongoing effort to understand how modifying plant cell walls might affect the production of biomass and its breakdown for use in biofuels, scientists at the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Brookhaven National Laboratory have uncovered a delicate biochemical balance essential for sustainable plant growth and reproduction. Their research on pectin, a sugary component of plant cell walls commonly used as a gelling and stabilizing agent in foods, might also suggest new ways to improve its properties for industrial and food applications.

The research findings appear online in the journal The Plant Cell.

‘Pectin is the most structurally complex polysaccharide (sugar) component of plant cell walls, and is mainly associated with cell walls that form in fast-growing tissues that are important for plant growth and development,’ said Brookhaven biologist Chang-Jun (C.J.) Liu, lead author of the paper. ‘Our aim was to understand how small molecules, such as acetyl esters, that commonly bind to the sugar backbone affect pectin’s structure and its biological and biophysical properties.’”

Compared with control plants (left) transgenic plants with overexpression of a gene for pectin acetylesterase had altered leaf shape as well as deformed anther sacs and pollen grains. These findings imply that pectin acetyl esters are essential for normal plant growth and reproduction.

See the full article here.

One of ten national laboratories overseen and primarily funded by the Office of Science of the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), Brookhaven National Laboratory conducts research in the physical, biomedical, and environmental sciences, as well as in energy technologies and national security. Brookhaven Lab also builds and operates major scientific facilities available to university, industry and government researchers. Brookhaven is operated and managed for DOE’s Office of Science by Brookhaven Science Associates, a limited-liability company founded by Stony Brook University, the largest academic user of Laboratory facilities, and Battelle, a nonprofit, applied science and technology organization.

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