Genotype, development and tissue-derived variation of cell-wall properties in the lignocellulosic energy crop Miscanthus

Ricardo Manuel Fernandes Da Costa, Scott J. Lee, Gordon G Allison, Samuel P. Hazen, Ana Winters, Maurice Bosch

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Background and Aims
Species and hybrids of the genus Miscanthus contain attributes that make them front-runners among current selections of dedicated bioenergy crops. A key trait for plant biomass conversion to biofuels and biomaterials is cell-wall quality; however, knowledge of cell-wall composition and biology in Miscanthus species is limited. This study presents data on cell-wall compositional changes as a function of development and tissue type across selected genotypes, and considers implications for the development of miscanthus as a sustainable and renewable bioenergy feedstock.

Cell-wall biomass was analysed for 25 genotypes, considering different developmental stages and stem vs. leaf compositional variability, by Fourier transform mid-infrared spectroscopy and lignin determination. In addition, a Clostridium phytofermentans bioassay was used to assess cell-wall digestibility and conversion to ethanol.

Key Results
Important cell-wall compositional differences between miscanthus stem and leaf samples were found to be predominantly associated with structural carbohydrates. Lignin content increased as plants matured and was higher in stem tissues. Although stem lignin concentration correlated inversely with ethanol production, no such correlation was observed for leaves. Leaf tissue contributed significantly to total above-ground biomass at all stages, although the extent of this contribution was genotype-dependent.

It is hypothesized that divergent carbohydrate compositions and modifications in stem and leaf tissues are major determinants for observed differences in cell-wall quality. The findings indicate that improvement of lignocellulosic feedstocks should encompass tissue-dependent variation as it affects amenability to biological conversion. For gene-trait associations relating to cell-wall quality, the data support the separate examination of leaf and stem composition, as tissue-specific traits may be masked by considering only total above-ground biomass samples, and sample variability could be mostly due to varying tissue contributions to total biomass.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1265-1277
Number of pages13
JournalAnnals of Botany
Issue number6
Early online date15 Apr 2014
Publication statusPublished - 01 Oct 2014


  • Miscanthus
  • biofuels
  • plant cell wall
  • Fourier transform mid-infrared spectroscopy
  • FTIR
  • lignin
  • fermentation
  • bioenergy
  • recalcitrance
  • lignocellulose
  • biomass
  • development
  • carbohydrates


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