The genetic modification of the plant cellulose structure has been demonstrated for the first time. This could be transformative for a bio-based economy. Cellulose is difficult to break down to form the sugars needed to produce biofuels. The goal of genetically altering the plant is to make plant cellulose easier to digest. Using solid-state nuclear magnetic resonance, a relative of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), researchers identified changes in the crystallinity of the cellulose; and the less crystalline the cellulose, the easier it is to process the plant and form sugars. Developing mutations that produce the cellulose structure that is most compatible with sugar production may lead to plants that are better for biofuel production.
- D. M. Harris, K. Corbin, T. Wang, R. Gutierrez, A. L. Bertolo, C. Petti, D.-M. Smilgies, J. M. Estevez, D. Bonetta, B. R. Urbanowicz, D. Ehrhardt, C. R. Somerville, J. K. C. Rose, M. Hong, S. DeBolt.Cellulose Microfibril Crystallinity is Reduced by Mutating C-terminal Transmembrane Region Residues CESA1A903V and CESA3T9421. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 2012, 109, 4098-4103. DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1200352109