Repression of Lignin Biosynthesis Promotes Cellulose Accumulation and Growth in Transgenic Trees

Date
1999-08-01
Authors
Hu, Wen-Jing
Harding, Scott
Popko, Jacqueline
Ralph, John
Stokke, Douglas
Tsai, Chung-Jui
Chiang, Vincent
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Research Projects
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Forestry
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Abstract

Because lignin limits the use of wood for fiber, chemical, and energy production, strategies for its downregulation are of considerable interest. We have produced transgenic aspen (Populus tremuloidesMichx.) trees in which expression of a lignin biosynthetic pathway genePt4CL1 encoding 4-coumarate:coenzyme A ligase (4CL) has been downregulated by antisense inhibition. Trees with suppressed Pt4CL1expression exhibited up to a 45% reduction of lignin, but this was compensated for by a 15% increase in cellulose. As a result, the total lignin–cellulose mass remained essentially unchanged. Leaf, root, and stem growth were substantially enhanced, and structural integrity was maintained both at the cellular and whole-plant levels in the transgenic lines. Our results indicate that lignin and cellulose deposition could be regulated in a compensatory fashion, which may contribute to metabolic flexibility and a growth advantage to sustain the long-term structural integrity of woody perennials.

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This article is from Nature Biotechnology 17 (1999): 808, doi:10.1038/11758.

Keywords
plant genetic engineering, lignin biosynthesis, 4CLtransgenic, Populus tremuloides
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