Gene Find Could Boost Cellulosic Ethanol Production

Cindy Zimmerman

The discovery of a new gene could help in the production of cellulosic ethanol.

purduePurdue University scientists have found the last undiscovered gene responsible for the production of the amino acid phenylalanine, a discovery that could lead to processes to control the amino acid to boost plants’ nutritional values and produce better biofuel feedstocks.

The researchers have determined that the gene is one of ten responsible for phenylalanine production in plants, which is important for plant protein synthesis and for the production of flower scent, anti-oxidants and lignin, a principal plant cell wall component that helps plants stand upright and acts as a barrier in the production of cellulosic ethanol. It is one of the few essential amino acids that humans and animals cannot synthesize, so it must come from plants.

Decreasing phenylalanine could lead to a reduction in lignin, which would improve digestibility of cellulosic materials for ethanol production. Increasing phenylalanine could boost the nutritional value of some foods.

Source: Purdue University press release

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