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J Vis Exp. 2010 Mar 11;(37). pii: 1745. doi: 10.3791/1745.

Comprehensive compositional analysis of plant cell walls (Lignocellulosic biomass) part I: lignin.

Author information

1
Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center, Michigan State University, USA.

Abstract

The need for renewable, carbon neutral, and sustainable raw materials for industry and society has become one of the most pressing issues for the 21st century. This has rekindled interest in the use of plant products as industrial raw materials for the production of liquid fuels for transportation(1) and other products such as biocomposite materials(7). Plant biomass remains one of the greatest untapped reserves on the planet(4). It is mostly comprised of cell walls that are composed of energy rich polymers including cellulose, various hemicelluloses (matrix polysaccharides, and the polyphenol lignin(6) and thus sometimes termed lignocellulosics. However, plant cell walls have evolved to be recalcitrant to degradation as walls provide tensile strength to cells and the entire plants, ward off pathogens, and allow water to be transported throughout the plant; in the case of trees up to more the 100 m above ground level. Due to the various functions of walls, there is an immense structural diversity within the walls of different plant species and cell types within a single plant(4). Hence, depending of what crop species, crop variety, or plant tissue is used for a biorefinery, the processing steps for depolymerization by chemical/enzymatic processes and subsequent fermentation of the various sugars to liquid biofuels need to be adjusted and optimized. This fact underpins the need for a thorough characterization of plant biomass feedstocks. Here we describe a comprehensive analytical methodology that enables the determination of the composition of lignocellulosics and is amenable to a medium to high-throughput analysis. In this first part we focus on the analysis of the polyphenol lignin (Figure 1). The method starts of with preparing destarched cell wall material. The resulting lignocellulosics are then split up to determine its lignin content by acetylbromide solubilization(3), and its lignin composition in terms of its syringyl, guaiacyl- and p-hydroxyphenyl units(5). The protocol for analyzing the carbohydrates in lignocellulosic biomass including cellulose content and matrix polysaccharide composition is discussed in Part II(2).

PMID:
20224547
PMCID:
PMC3144576
DOI:
10.3791/1745
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

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