Plants

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GLBRC's Plants Research Area

Plants

At the GLBRC, Plants researchers are developing the next generation of biomass-trait-improved crops. Because crops will continue to be grown for food and feed in the future, research focused on enhancing plants with desirable energy traits must be pursued without sacrificing grain yield and quality.

Learn about the Center's research approach

Plants Leadership

Plants Lead

Ralph’s program is aimed at decreasing plant cell wall recalcitrance to processing and improving plant value to the biorefinery, largely by: detailing lignin structure, chemistry, and reactions; delineating the effects of perturbing lignin biosynthetic pathways; ‘redesigning’ lignins in planta to...

Plants Lead

Brandizzi is a professor in the Michigan State University-U.S. Department of Energy (MSU-DOE) Plant Research Laboratory, and brings over 15 years of academic research experience to her role at GLBRC. Prior to coming to Michigan, Brandizzi was an associate professor...

Project Overview

Primary root of live Arabidopsis thaliana seedlings grown with green fluorescence-tagged monolignol probeGLBRC Plants research is highly genomics-focused. Although most plants used in agriculture have been selected for improved production of food or fiber, future bioenergy crops will have different characteristics, including high-energy yield per hectare, ease of conversion to fuels, and agricultural sustainability. Thus, while the Center's long-term efforts focus primarily on dedicated bioenergy crops such as perennial grasses and short-rotation woody species, improving basic traits in all biomass-relevant crops including the grain annuals is a priority.

Plants research projects fall under three general categories:

  • Reducing lignocellulosic biomass recalcitrance through plant cell wall modification
  • Improving the value of the biomass grown for bioenergy production
  • Integrating these and other beneficial traits into bioenergy crops that exhibit improved nutrient use and stress tolerance for sustainable, perennialized production

Plants Publications

Degradation of lignin β-aryl ether units in Arabidopsis thaliana expressing LigD, LigF and LigG from Sphingomonas paucimobilis SYK-6

Ewelina Mnich; Ruben Vanholme; Paula Oyarce; Sarah Liu; Fachuang Lu; Geert Goeminne; Bodil Jørgensen; Mohammed S. Motawie; Wout Boerjan; John Ralph; Peter Ulvskov; Birger L. Møller; Nanna Bjarnholt; Jesper Harholt

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2017

Lignin is a major polymer in the secondary plant cell wall and composed of hydrophobic interlinked hydroxyphenylpropanoid units. The presence of lignin hampers conversion of plant biomass into biofuels; plants with modified lignin are therefore being investigated for increased digestibility. The bacterium Sphingomonas paucimobilis produces lignin-degrading enzymes including LigD, LigF and LigG involved in cleaving the most abundant lignin interunit linkage, the beta-aryl ether bond. In this study, we expressed the LigD, LigF and LigG (LigDFG) genes in Arabidopsis thaliana to introduce postlignification modifications into the lignin structure. The three enzymes were targeted to the secretory pathway. Phenolic metabolite profiling and 2D HSQC NMR of the transgenic lines showed an increase in oxidized guaiacyl and syringyl units without concomitant increase in oxidized beta-aryl ether units, showing lignin bond cleavage. Saccharification yield increased significantly in transgenic lines expressing LigDFG, showing the applicability of our approach. Additional new information on substrate specificity of the LigDFG enzymes is also provided.

Genetic architecture of flowering-time variation in Brachypodium distachyon

Daniel P. Woods; Ryland Bednarek; Frédéric Bouché; Sean P. Gordon; John P. Vogel; David F. Garvin; Richard M. Amasino

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2017

The transition to reproductive development is a crucial step in the plant life cycle, and the timing of this transition is an important factor in crop yields. Here, we report new insights into the genetic control of natural variation in flowering time in Brachypodium distachyon, a non-domesticated pooid grass closely related to cereals such as wheat and barley. A recombinant inbred line (RIL) population derived from a cross between the rapid-flowering accession Bd21 and the delayed-flowering accession Bd1-1 were grown in a variety of environmental conditions to enable exploration of the genetic architecture of flowering time. A genotyping-by-sequencing (GBS) approach was used to develop SNP markers for genetic map construction, and quantitative trait loci (QTLs) that control differences in flowering time were identified. Many of the flowering time QTLs are detected across a range of photoperiod and vernalization conditions, suggesting that the genetic control of flowering within this population is robust. The two major QTLs identified in undomesticated B distachyon colocalize with VERNALIZATION1/PHYTOCHROME C and VERNALIZATION2, loci identified as flowering regulators in the domesticated crops wheat and barley. This suggests that variation in flowering time is controlled in part by a set of genes broadly conserved within pooid grasses.

Genome-wide associations with flowering time in switchgrass using exome-capture sequencing data

Paul P. Grabowski; Joseph Evans; Chris Daum; Shweta Deshpande; Kerrie W. Barry; Megan Kennedy; Guillaume Ramstein; Shawn M. Kaeppler; Robin Buell; Yiwei Jiang; Michael D. Casler

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2017

Flowering time is a major determinant of biomass yield in switchgrass (Panicum virgatum), a perennial bioenergy crop, because later flowering allows for an extended period of vegetative growth and increased biomass production. A better understanding of the genetic regulation of flowering time in switchgrass will aid the development of switchgrass varieties with increased biomass yields, particularly at northern latitudes, where late-flowering but southern-adapted varieties have high winter mortality. We use genotypes derived from recently published exome-capture sequencing, which mitigates challenges related to the large, highly repetitive and polyploid switchgrass genome, to perform genome-wide association studies (GWAS) using flowering time data from a switchgrass association panel in an effort to characterize the genetic architecture and genes underlying flowering time regulation in switchgrass. We identify associations with flowering time at multiple loci, including in a homolog of FLOWERING LOCUS T and in a locus containing TIMELESS, a homolog of a key circadian regulator in animals. Our results suggest that flowering time variation in switchgrass is due to variation at many positions across the genome. The relationship of flowering time and geographic origin indicates likely roles for genes in the photoperiod and autonomous pathways in generating switchgrass flowering time variation.

Winter memory throughout the plant kingdom: different paths to flowering

Frédéric Bouché; Daniel P. Woods; Richard M. Amasino

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2017

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