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"Engineering phenylpropanoid biosynthesis to improve biomass quality"

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Thursday 17 May 2018, 11:00 - 12:30


Climate change and the depletion of fossil resources have urged the transition from a fossil-based to a biobased society. In the biorefinery, lignocellulosic plant biomass can be converted into a plethora of products. The cell wall polysaccharide fraction can be processed into fermentable sugars, and the lignin fraction into aromatic building blocks for the chemical industry. In addition, plant biomass contains numerous extractives of unknown structure and function, that can potentially be valorized as well. Research in the Bioenergy and Bio-aromatics group is devoted to unravelling the biosynthesis and structure of lignin, and to investigate how the phenylpropanoid pathway, that leads to the lignin building blocks, is integrated into metabolism. We use Arabidopsis, poplar and maize as model systems to discover the function of candidate genes, i.a. through CRISPR/Cas9. Because this type of research heavily depends on comparative metabolomics, we also develop tools to speed up the structural identification of new compounds. In several cases, lignin-modification results in great improvements in biomass quality, but is accompanied with a yield penalty. Therefore, we have initiated research towards understanding its molecular cause. Engineered plants that show promising improvements in biomass processing when cultivated in the greenhouse are then taken further to field trials, sometimes leading to unexpected phenotypes.

Location Jozef Schell Seminar Room
Contact Prof Wout Boerjan
VIB-UGent Center for Plant Systems Biology