Covalent interactions between lignin and hemicelluloses in plant secondary cell walls.


Department of Biochemistry, University of Cambridge, Hopkins Building, The Downing Site, Tennis Court Road, Cambridge CB2 1QW, UK. Electronic address: [Email]


The plant secondary cell wall is a complex structure composed of polysaccharides and lignin, and is a key evolutionary innovation of vascular land plants. Although cell wall composition is well understood, the cross-linking of the different polymers is only now yielding to investigation. Cross-linking between hemicelluloses and lignin occurs via two different mechanisms: incorporation into lignin by radical coupling of ferulate substitutions on xylan in commelinid monocots, and incorporation of hemicellulosic glycosyl residues by re-aromatisation of lignification intermediates. Recent genetic evidence indicates that hemicellulose:lignin cross-linking has a substantial impact on plant cell wall recalcitrance. Engineering plant biomass with modified frequencies of cross-links will have significant impacts on biomass utilisation.

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