Observing Biosynthesis of Lignocellulosic Biomass in situ
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The Honors project is potentially the most valuable component of an Honors education. Typically Honors students choose to do their projects in their area of study, but some will pick a topic of interest unrelated to their major.
The Honors Program requires that the project be presented at a poster presentation event. Poster presentations are held each semester. Most students present during their senior year, but may do so earlier if their honors project has been completed.
This site presents project descriptions and selected posters for Honors projects completed since the Fall 2015 semester.
The pollen grains of Arabidopsis thaliana produce a fast-growing pollen tube. The cell wall of this pollen tube can model lignocellulosic biomass. This project utilized a fucose analog to label the distribution of fucose in pollen tube cell wall during biosynthesis. Pollen grains were germinated on medium containing this alkyne-modified fucose analog, called FucAl. This allowed pollen grains to incorporate FucAl, rather than fucose, into cell walls. Following tube growth, cell walls containing FucAl were exposed to Alexa 594 and Alexa 647 Azides in a copper-catalyzed “click” reaction. This reaction between the azide and alkyne yields fluorescent product at the FucAl molecule’s location. This allowed us to localize where fucose belongs in the cell wall. These results confirm the success of the click reaction and suggest that fucose may be taken up by the pollen grain during tube elongation. Further studies are needed to shed light on the critical steps of this process. Once the methodology is optimized, it will be expanded to include biomass degradation. This simple biomass model was suitable for effective mapping of polysaccharide distribution during growth, and this project utilized correlative optical and fluorescence microscopy to study fucose delivery and utilization during cell wall biosynthesis.