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Biomacromolecules. 2008 Sep;9(9):2510-6. doi: 10.1021/bm800528f. Epub 2008 Aug 20.

Coniferyl ferulate incorporation into lignin enhances the alkaline delignification and enzymatic degradation of cell walls.

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  • 1United States Dairy Forage Research Center, USDA-ARS, 1925 Linden Drive West, Madison, Wisconsin 53706, USA.


Incorporating ester interunit linkages into lignin could facilitate fiber delignification and utilization. In model studies with maize cell walls, we examined how partial substitution of coniferyl alcohol (a normal monolignol) with coniferyl ferulate (an ester conjugate from lignan biosynthesis) alters the formation and alkaline extractability of lignin and the enzymatic hydrolysis of structural polysaccharides. Coniferyl ferulate moderately reduced lignification and cell-wall ferulate copolymerization with monolignols. Incorporation of coniferyl ferulate increased lignin extractability by up to 2-fold in aqueous NaOH, providing an avenue for producing fiber with less noncellulosic and lignin contamination or of delignifying at lower temperatures. Cell walls lignified with coniferyl ferulate were more readily hydrolyzed with fibrolytic enzymes, both with and without alkaline pretreatment. Based on our results, bioengineering of plants to incorporate coniferyl ferulate into lignin should enhance lignocellulosic biomass saccharification and particularly pulping for paper production.

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