Reaction wood - a key cause of variation in cell wall recalcitrance in willow

A - Papers appearing in refereed journals

Brereton, N. J. B., Ray, M. J., Shield, I. F., Martin, P., Karp, A. and Murphy, R. J. 2012. Reaction wood - a key cause of variation in cell wall recalcitrance in willow. Biotechnology for Biofuels. 2, p. 83.

AuthorsBrereton, N. J. B., Ray, M. J., Shield, I. F., Martin, P., Karp, A. and Murphy, R. J.

The recalcitrance of lignocellulosic cell wall biomass to deconstruction varies greatly in angiosperms, yet the source of this variation remains unclear. Here, in eight genotypes of short rotation coppice willow (Salix sp.) variability of the reaction wood (RW) response and the impact of this variation on cell wall recalcitrance to enzymatic saccharification was considered.

A pot trial was designed to test if the ‘RW response’ varies between willow genotypes and contributes to the differences observed in cell wall recalcitrance to enzymatic saccharification in field-grown trees. Biomass composition was measured via wet chemistry and used with glucose release yields from enzymatic saccharification to determine cell wall recalcitrance. The levels of glucose release found for pot-grown control trees showed no significant correlation with glucose release from mature field-grown trees. However, when a RW phenotype was induced in pot-grown trees, glucose release was strongly correlated with that for mature field-grown trees. Field studies revealed a 5-fold increase in glucose release from a genotype grown at a site exposed to high wind speeds (a potentially high RW inducing environment) when compared with the same genotype grown at a more sheltered site.

Our findings provide evidence for a new concept concerning variation in the recalcitrance to enzymatic hydrolysis of the stem biomass of different, field-grown willow genotypes (and potentially other angiosperms). Specifically, that genotypic differences in the ability to produce a response to RW inducing conditions (a ‘RW response’) indicate that this RW response is a primary determinant of the variation observed in cell wall glucan accessibility. The identification of the importance of this RW response trait in willows, is likely to be valuable in selective breeding strategies in willow (and other angiosperm) biofuel crops and, with further work to dissect the nature of RW variation, could provide novel targets for genetic modification for improved biofuel feedstocks.

Year of Publication2012
JournalBiotechnology for Biofuels
Journal citation2, p. 83
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)
Open accessPublished as ‘gold’ (paid) open access
FunderBiotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council
Funder project or codeCropping Carbon (CC) [ISPG]
The BBSRC Sustainable Bioenergy Centre (BSBEC): Perennial Bioenergy Crops Programme [2009-2014]
Publisher's version
Output statusPublished
Publication dates
Online22 Nov 2012
Publication process dates
Accepted16 Nov 2012
PublisherBioMed Central
Biomed Central Ltd
Copyright licenseCC BY

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