of cellulose Ibeta
There is, however, another component of the cell wall called lignin which essentially holds the cellulose together and gives firmness to the plant that allows for their upright stature. Lignin also, unfortunately; in the eyes of a biofuel producer; reduces the accessibility of the sugar in the cell wall, thus limiting biofuel production potential.
Now, a group of international scientists have identified a gene that is important for lignin production. Their results are reported in the Science Express article entitled: 'Caffeoyl Shikimate Esterase (CSE) Is an Enzyme in the Lignin Biosynthetic Pathway' The authors found that when CSE is non-functional 36% less lignin is produced and the remaining lignin had an altered structure. In the final analysis; conversion of cellulose to glucose was increased 4 fold in plants with mutated CSE.
The authors now hope to identify plants with mutated CSE or to embark on genetic engineering in order to have a stock of plants with non-functional CSE which can be employed in the production of biofuels.