August 20, 2013, Simcoe, Ont. - An international team of scientists has discovered a new plant enzyme that could eventually lead to a breakthrough in the production of cellulosic bio-based fuels made from crop wastes, as well as chemicals and plastics.
By Scott Jamieson
According to an article in Scientific American, Caffeoyl shikimate esterase (CSE) is an enzyme whose genes can be
switched off to control the formation of lignin. Lignin is a
lattice-like structure of cells that makes plants
rigid. It is also a tough substance that makes it difficult to extract
sugar from agricultural wastes to make biofuels. As such, it has been a
roadblock to commercial production for years.
The plant — Arabidopsis thaliana, a relative of the mustard
family — had been studied by researchers for years because it is often
used as a model in examining the biological structures of plants. By
blocking the production of polymers, the researchers found that
molecular structure of its lignin was altered and became less complex,
making for a more easily digestible feedstock to turn into fuels.
Read more here.