Recent Posts

Diterpenoid Metabolism in Switchgrass

Switchgrass (Panicum virgatum) is a perennial C4 grass native to North America primarily valued as a next-generation feedstock for biofuel production. Its high net energy yield and 
wide habitat range make switchgrass an attractive crop for cultivation on marginal lands with minimal agronomic inputs,…

A Molecular Gatekeeper of Algal Biofuel Synthesis

Algae undergo a complete metabolic transformation under stress by arresting cell growth, inducing autophagy, and hyper-accumulating biofuel precursors such as triacylglycerols and starch. However, the regulatory mechanisms behind this stress-induced transformation are still unclear. Understanding the signaling…

Lignin Bioengineering in Poplar

Lignified cell walls constitute an important renewable and sustainable feedstock for the production of fermentable sugars, biochemicals, and biomaterials.  In biorefineries, plant cell wall polysaccharides are depolymerized into simple monomeric sugars, a process called saccharification. These sugars…

Review: Senescence and nitrogen use efficiency in perennial grasses for forage and biofuel production ($)

Much of our understanding of the molecular processes of senescence and nutrient remobilization comes from annual plants. Yang and Udvardi explore how these processes take place in perennial grasses including important biofuel grasses switchgrass (Panicum virgatum) and miscanthus (Miscanthus×giganteus).…

Squeezing oil out of plants and into your gas tank: it's hard

Here is a summary of new research published in The Plant Cell, written by Martin Vorel and published on the Michigan State University website. Sometimes, when a science experiment doesn’t work out, unexpected opportunities open up. That’s what Yang Yang and the Benning lab have found…

Review: Systems-wide understanding of photosynthetic acclimation in algae and higher plants ($)

Deriving energy from light is a bit like keeping your hands warm by juggling burning coals; doable but dangerous. Photosynthetic organisms constantly adjust their photosynthetic machinery to optimize energy production but avoid damage from excess light. Moejes et al.  describe a large-scale project,…

A Flavone Synthase that Alters Lignin

Lignin, a ubiquitous phenylpropanoid polymer found in the cell walls of vascular plants, is derived primarily from oxidative couplings of monolignols (p-hydroxycinnamyl alcohols). By filling up spaces between cell wall polysaccharides (cellulose and hemicelluloses), lignin confers increased mechanical…

Biofuel blending reduces particle emissions from aircraft engines at cruise conditions ($)

Aircraft engines release CO2 into the atmosphere, but particles produced from aircraft emissions can also affect climate through aerosol production that leads to cloud formation. Moore et al. examined how incorporating plant-based biofuels (Camelina oil) affected the production of aerosols. They found…

Nanoscale movements of cellulose microfibrils in primary cell walls ($)

Cell walls are complex mixtures of cellulose microfibrils, proteins and other materials. Their mechanical properties can be measured and modeled, but it is not always simple to translate these measurements to changes at the molecular level. Zhang et al. used atomic force microscopy to provide an unprecedented…