From Science Daily:

In the search for low-emission plant-based fuels, new research could lead to sustainable alternatives to fossil fuel-based products.

Scientists have identified new steps in the way plants produce cellulose, the component of plant cell walls that provides strength, and forms insoluble fiber in the human diet.

The findings may lead to improved production of cellulose and guide plant breeding for specific uses such as wood products and cellulosic ethanol fuel, which is estimated to have roughly 85 percent less greenhouse gas emissions than fossil fuel sources.

Published in the journal Nature Communications, the work was conducted by an international team of scientists, led by the University of Melbourne and the University of Cambridge.

Our research identified several proteins that are essential in the assembly of the protein machinery that makes cellulose, said Prof Staffan Persson from the University of Melbourne, Australia.

“We found that these assembly factors control how much cellulose is made, and so plants without them can not produce cellulose very well and the defect substantially impairs plant biomass production.”

“The ultimate aim of this research would be breed plants that have altered activity of these proteins so that cellulose production can be improved for the range of applications that use cellulose including paper, timber and ethanol fuels.

The newly discovered proteins are located in an intracellular compartment called the Golgi where proteins are sorted and modified.

“If the function of this protein family is abolished the cellulose synthesizing complexes become stuck in the Golgi and have problems…

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