Louisiana State University researchers identify different internal structure of corn than previously thought

January 21, 2019 |

In Louisiana, new research on the U.S.’s most economically important agricultural plant — corn — has revealed a different internal structure of the plant than previously thought, which can help optimize how corn is converted into ethanol. Researchers at Louisiana State University are the first to investigate an intact corn plant stalk at the atomic level using high-resolution techniques.

It has been previously thought that cellulose, a thick and rigid complex carbohydrate that acts like a scaffold in corn and other plants, connected directly to a waterproof polymer called lignin. However, Wang and colleagues discovered that lignin has limited contact with cellulose inside a plant. Instead, the wiry complex carbohydrate called xylan connects cellulose and lignin as the glue.

It has also been previously thought that the cellulose, lignin and xylan molecules are mixed, but the scientists discovered that they each have separate domains and these domains perform separate functions.

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