Submitted to: Polyphenols Actualites
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: May 7, 1997
Publication Date: N/A
Interpretive Summary: Polysaccharides provide food and energy sources for microbes and ruminant animals. However, not all of the polysaccharides in plants are available for digestion. A major mechanism preventing full utilization is the plants ability to cross-link its polysaccharides to other polysaccharides or to a much more inert substance, lignin, that is broken down only with great difficulty. Compounds called ferulates, present in quite small amounts in the plants cell walls, have a remarkable ability to effect this cross- linking. What is of basic interest is that we have now shown that these ferulates are the very sites at which lignin formation begins in the plant. Obviously they are more crucial to plant growth and development than previously thought. In addition to explaining how polysaccharide digestibility of plant cell walls is limited, the studies suggest possibilities for improving the digestibility of plants. Such studies are at the heart of efforts to improve agricultural sustainability and maximiz the benefits of our plant resources.
Technical Abstract: Ferulates become intimately involved in lignification reactions in grasses, incorporating into lignins to effect lignin-polysaccharide cross-linking. In ryegrass, evidence is presented that ferulates react only with lignin monomers (and not pre-formed oligomers) and therefore function as nucleation sites for lignification reactions. A similar role for diferulates is expected.