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Genomic Science Program

2010 Awardee

Identification and Genetic Characterization of Maize Cell Wall Variation for Improved Biorefinery Feedstock Characteristics

INVESTIGATORS: Pauly, M.; Hake, S.

INSTITUTION: University of California, Berkeley

NON-TECHNICAL SUMMARY: The most prominent plant feedstock for ethanol production in the US is currently maize ( Zea mays ). However, only the starch in the grain is used for fermentation to ethanol. Of a typical maize cultivar currently grown in the US, this feedstock represents only 25% of the biomass. The remainder of the biomass (termed corn stover) consists primarily of lignocellulosics (cell walls) composed of cellulose, mainly in crystalline form, hemicelluloses, and the polyphenol lignin. This crop residue is generated by US agriculture in significant amounts (75 million dry tons per year) and it is thus desirable to also use this lignocellulosic material as a source for biofuel production. In this project we will identify and genetically characterize maize lines with altered wall compositions particularly those containing higher yields of fermentable sugars.

OBJECTIVES: The objectives of this project are to characterize novel maize germplasm with enhanced biorefinery feedstock characteristics. In addition, the underlying genetic basis for these properties will be elucidated providing unique insights into the cell wall polysaccharide biosynthesis/metabolism of this C4 grass crop species.

APPROACH: The first approach will entail the characterization of unique, already identified, thus far uncharacterized, randomly mutagenized maize mutants with altered cell wall structures. A detailed wall analysis of these lines in terms of cellulose, hemicellulose and lignin structure will be performed. In addition, the genetic basis for the observed plant cell wall defects will be elucidated by map-based cloning of the mutations using current methodologies.

In a second approach, the wall compositional characteristics of different-staged tissues of naturally genetically diverse maize lines will be determined. This survey should result in the identification of wall “outliers” with altered cellulose, hemicellulose, or lignin quantities or qualities. The genetic basis of these cell wall traits will be determined by taking advantage of recombinant inbred line populations already generated from those lines.

PROJECT CONTACT:
Name: Pauly, M.
Phone: 510-642-1722
Fax: 510-642-1490
Email: mpauly69@berkeley.edu

 

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