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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service


item Ralph, John

Submitted to: Workshop Proceedings
Publication Type: Proceedings
Publication Acceptance Date: 12/14/2006
Publication Date: 2/12/2007
Citation: Ralph, J. 2007. Streamlined method for biomass whole-cell-wall structural profiling. In: Proceedings of the USDA-DOE Plant Feedstock Genomics for Bioenergy Awardee Workshop, February 12, 2007, Bethesda, Maryland. Available:

Interpretive Summary:

Technical Abstract: In wide-ranging research aimed at altering plant cell wall characteristics by conventional breeding or modern genetic methods, one of the biggest problems is in delineating the effects on the cell wall. Plant cell walls are a complex conglomerate of a variety of polysaccharides and lignin. Each component alone is complex, and their interactions are only poorly characterized and understood. The most common approach has been to isolate and purify components and to characterize them in detail using a variety of methods. Such studies will always be necessary. Previous studies in which lignin-biosynthetic-pathway enzymes were targeted have made it abundantly clear that, for example, simple compositional analysis is not sufficient. Some plants with only minor compositional changes have drastically altered chemical structure that belies the important alterations that can be made in processes ranging from natural digestibility in ruminant animals to industrial chemical pulping. How can the structural components of the cell wall be readily characterized? Although other methods have their place, and can be more rapid (e.g., NIR), the difficulty in interpretation of some spectral methods, or the destruction of structure by chemical methods, assures that key features of cell walls benefiting, for example, biomass production and conversion are lost. A promising recent approach is the dissolution of the whole cell wall and NMR analysis. We intend to extend the methodologies to provide rapid structural profiling of plant materials, aiming for a “screening rate” of 20-30 samples per day. Such methodology will be useful to plant researchers worldwide.

Last Modified: 10/18/2017
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