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Plant Biotechnol J. 2008 Sep;6(7):663-78. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-7652.2008.00350.x. Epub 2008 May 19.

Production of polyhydroxybutyrate in switchgrass, a value-added co-product in an important lignocellulosic biomass crop.

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Metabolix, Inc, Cambridge, MA 02139, USA.



Polyhydroxyalkanoate bio-based plastics made from renewable resources can reduce petroleum consumption and decrease plastic waste disposal issues as they are inherently biodegradable in soil, compost and marine environments. In this paper, the successful engineering of the biomass crop switchgrass (Panicum virgatum L.) for the synthesis of polyhydroxybutyrate (PHB) is reported. Polymer production was monitored in more than 400 primary transformants grown under in vitro and glasshouse conditions. Plants containing up to 3.72% dry weight of PHB in leaf tissues and 1.23% dry weight of PHB in whole tillers were obtained. Results from the analysis of the polymer distribution at the cellular and whole plant levels are presented, and target areas for the improvement of PHB production are highlighted. Polymer accumulation was also analysed in the T(1) generation obtained from controlled crosses of transgenic plants. This study presents the first successful expression of a functional multigene pathway in switchgrass, and demonstrates that this high-yielding biomass crop is amenable to the complex metabolic engineering strategies necessary to produce high-value biomaterials with lignocellulose-derived biofuels.

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