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New insights into how cellulose is built could indicate how to break it apart for biofuels

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17 October 2018

Using the model plant species Arabidopsis thaliana, also known as thale cress, a team of researchers from Penn State have identified the main proteins that prepare plants to create cellulose – a compound used in a variety of manmade materials. The proteins cellulose synthase interactive 1 and PATROL1 associate with each other (inset) and may contribute to how quickly the cellulose synthase complex, a grouping of different proteins known to be involved in the synthesis of cellulose, reaches the location where cellulose is made. Credit: photo Charles Andrès; inset Penn State.
Using the model plant species Arabidopsis thaliana, also known as thale cress, a team of researchers from Penn State have identified the main proteins that prepare plants to create cellulose – a compound used in a variety of manmade materials. The proteins cellulose synthase interactive 1 and PATROL1 associate with each other (inset) and may contribute to how quickly the cellulose synthase complex, a grouping of different proteins known to be involved in the synthesis of cellulose, reaches the location where cellulose is made. Credit: photo Charles Andrès; inset Penn State.
A comprehensive look at how plants build cellulose, the primary building block of the walls of most plant cells that is used in a wide variety of manmade materials, could have important implications for its use in biofuels.

“Cellulose is the single most abundant biopolymer on earth,” said Ying Gu, associate professor of biochemistry and molecular biology. Despite the economic significance of cellulose, prior to this study researchers only had a basic understanding of how plants create this abundant resource. “We used a combination of approaches—including cell imaging, functional genetics, and proteomics— to create a timeline of events and to identify the main proteins involved in preparing the cell for cellulose synthesis,” she said.

The researchers showed that a protein called cellulose synthase interactive 1 (CSI1) interacts with a grouping of proteins called the cellulose synthase complex and may help mark the site at the plasma membrane where synthesis occurs. CSI1 also interacts with a separate complex called the exocyst complex and a protein called PATROL1, which may also help prepare the cell for synthesis.

“We eventually hope to translate what we know about how plant cells build cellulose to more efficiently break it apart again for use in biofuels, ultimately increasing the efficiency of biomass-based energy production,” said Gu.

Read the full story at bit.ly/ECOSv2PR1