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Curr Opin Biotechnol. 2018 Nov 13;56:105-111. doi: 10.1016/j.copbio.2018.10.011. [Epub ahead of print]

Harnessing lignin evolution for biotechnological applications.

Author information

1
Institute of Plant Molecular Biology, CNRS UPR 2357, University of Strasbourg, F-67000 Strasbourg, France. Electronic address: renault@unistra.fr.
2
Institute of Plant Molecular Biology, CNRS UPR 2357, University of Strasbourg, F-67000 Strasbourg, France. Electronic address: werck@unistra.fr.
3
Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research, 455 Main Street, Cambridge, MA 02142, USA; Department of Biology, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA 02139, USA. Electronic address: wengj@wi.mit.edu.

Abstract

Lignin evolved concomitantly with the rise of vascular plants on planet earth ∼450 million years ago. Several iterations of exploiting ancestral phenylpropanoid metabolism for biopolymers occurred prior to lignin that facilitated early plants' adaptation to terrestrial environments. The first true lignin was constructed via oxidative coupling of a number of simple phenylpropanoid alcohols to form a sturdy polymer that supports long-distance water transport. This invention has directly contributed to the dominance of vascular plants in the Earth's flora, and has had a profound impact on the establishment of the rich terrestrial ecosystems as we know them today. Within vascular plants, new lignin traits continued to emerge with expanded biological functions pertinent to host fitness under complex environmental niches. Understanding the chemical and biochemical basis for lignin's evolution in diverse plants therefore offers new opportunities and tools for engineering desirable lignin traits in crops with economic significance.

PMID:
30439673
DOI:
10.1016/j.copbio.2018.10.011
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