Wagner R. de Souza 1 , Polyana K. Martins 1 , Jackie Freeman 2 , Till K. Pellny 2 , Louise V. Michaelson 2 , Bruno L. Sampaio 1 , Felipe Vinecky 1 , Ana P. Ribeiro 1 , Barbara A. D. B. da Cunha 1 , Adilson K. Kobayashi 1 , Patricia A. de Oliveira 1 , Raquel B. Campanha 1 , Thályta F. Pacheco 1 , Danielly C. I. Martarello 3 , Rogério Marchiosi 3 , Osvaldo Ferrarese‐Filho 3 , Wanderley D. dos Santos 3 , Robson Tramontina 4 , Fabio M. Squina 5 , Danilo C. Centeno 6 , Marília Gaspar 7 , Marcia R. Braga 7 , Marco A. S. Tiné 7 , John Ralph 8 , 9 , Rowan A. C. Mitchell , 2 , Hugo B. C. Molinari , 1
08 January 2018
Feruloylation of arabinoxylan ( AX) in grass cell walls is a key determinant of recalcitrance to enzyme attack, making it a target for improvement of grass crops, and of interest in grass evolution. Definitive evidence on the genes responsible is lacking so we studied a candidate gene that we identified within the BAHD acyl‐CoA transferase family.
We used RNA interference (RNAi) silencing of orthologs in the model grasses Setaria viridis ( Sv BAHD01 ) and Brachypodium distachyon ( Bd BAHD01 ) and determined effects on AX feruloylation.
Silencing of Sv BAHD01 in Setaria resulted in a c. 60% decrease in AX feruloylation in stems consistently across four generations. Silencing of Bd BAHD01 in Brachypodium stems decreased feruloylation much less, possibly due to higher expression of functionally redundant genes. Setaria Sv BAHD01 RNAi plants showed: no decrease in total lignin, approximately doubled arabinose acylated by p‐coumarate, changes in two‐dimensional NMR spectra of unfractionated cell walls consistent with biochemical estimates, no effect on total biomass production and an increase in biomass saccharification efficiency of 40–60%.
We provide the first strong evidence for a key role of the BAHD01 gene in AX feruloylation and demonstrate that it is a promising target for improvement of grass crops for biofuel, biorefining and animal nutrition applications.
See also the Commentary on this article by Gómez & McQueen‐Mason, 218: 5–7 .