High-level switches that control wood formation have applications in biofuels

March 17, 2019 |

In North Carolina, researchers at North Carolina State University uncovered how a complex network of transcription factors switch wood formation genes on and off, which has applications for modifying wood properties for timber, paper and biofuels, as well as making forest trees more disease- and pest-resistant.

The new study upends ideas about transcriptional regulatory networks inferred from work with nonwoody species, such as Arabidopsis thaliana, a model plant. The study provides an extensive look at a transcriptional regulatory network in woody plants. Researchers’ goal is to provide a toolkit for building trees with specific properties needed for commercial timber, paper, biofuel production and conservation needs.

Plant biologists tested 42 of the interactions they found in lines of transgenic black cottonwood, verifying the function of about 90 percent. The network revealed which genes are common targets for specific transcription factors. As a result, researchers found nine new protein-protein interactions involved in forming lignin, a component in the cell wall that gives wood its strength and density.

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Category: Research

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