Jump to main content
Jump to site search

Issue 1, 2015
Previous Article Next Article

Why genetic modification of lignin leads to low-recalcitrance biomass

Author affiliations


Genetic modification of plants via down-regulation of cinnamyl alcohol dehydrogenase leads to incorporation of aldehyde groups in the lignin polymer. The resulting lignocellulosic biomass has increased bioethanol yield. However, a molecular-scale explanation of this finding is currently lacking. Here, we perform molecular dynamics simulation of the copolymer with hemicellulose of wild type and the genetically modified lignin, in aqueous solution. We find that the non-covalent association with hemicellulose of lignin containing aldehyde groups is reduced compared to the wild-type. This phase separation may increase the cell wall porosity in the mutant plants, thus explaining their easier deconstruction to biofuels. The thermodynamic origin of the reduced lignin-hemicellulose association is found to be a more favorable self-interaction energy and less favorable interaction with hemicellulose for the mutant lignin. Furthermore, reduced hydration water density fluctuations are found for the mutant lignin, implying a more hydrophobic lignin surface. The results provide a detailed description of how aldehyde incorporation makes lignin more hydrophobic and reduces its association with hemicellulose, thus suggesting that increased lignin hydrophobicity may be an optimal characteristic required for improved biofuel production.

Graphical abstract: Why genetic modification of lignin leads to low-recalcitrance biomass

Back to tab navigation

Supplementary files

Publication details

The article was received on 30 Oct 2014, accepted on 31 Oct 2014 and first published on 11 Nov 2014

Article type: Paper
DOI: 10.1039/C4CP05004E
Author version
Download author version (PDF)
Phys. Chem. Chem. Phys., 2015,17, 358-364

  •   Request permissions

    Why genetic modification of lignin leads to low-recalcitrance biomass

    C. Carmona, P. Langan, J. C. Smith and L. Petridis, Phys. Chem. Chem. Phys., 2015, 17, 358
    DOI: 10.1039/C4CP05004E

Search articles by author