Maize Juvenility Gene Enhances Biofuel Production from Bioenergy Crops
The sugars in plant cell walls have the potential to be converted on a large scale to biofuels; however, these sugars are locked in a rigid lignin matrix, inhibiting their extraction and conversion into biofuels. Researchers have now discovered a potential way around this obstacle through studies of the maize Corngrass1 (Cg1) gene, which promotes maintenance of juvenility in maize plants. Since juvenile plant material contains less lignin, they hypothesized that this mutant might produce plants whose sugars would be more easily extracted and converted into biofuels. When the Cg1 gene was transferred into other plants, including the potential bioenergy crop switchgrass, the amount of starch and subsequent glucose release was significantly higher than from the wild type plants even without expensive pretreatment. These results offer a promising new approach for the improvement of dedicated bioenergy crops. The research was carried out at the USDA-ARS, University of California, Berkeley, DOE’s Joint BioEnergy Institute, and the Energy Biosciences Institute, and supported in part by the joint USDA-DOE Plant Feedstocks Genomics for Bioenergy program. It is published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Chuck, G. S., C. Tobias, L. Sun, F. Kraemer, C. Li, D. Dibble, R. Arora, J. N. Bragg, J. P. Vogel, S. Singh, B. A. Simmons, M. Pauly, and S. Hake. 2011. “Overexpression of the Maize Corngrass1 MicroRNA Prevents Flowering, Improves Digestibility, and Increases Starch Content of Switchgrass,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (USA) 108(42), 17550-55. DOI:10.1073/pnas.1113971108.