August 27, 2008
Corn genetics may lead to next generation of plant-based biofuelsWEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - Identifying the corn genes involved with plant cell wall generation and learning their function will help develop new, more productive sources of transportation biofuel, according to two Purdue University researchers.
Nick Carpita and Maureen McCann will study genes involved in the formation of cell walls in the group of plants known as grasses, which includes corn. The goal is to find ways to produce more biomass containing more sugars that can be efficiently processed into biofuel.
"The close evolutionary and genomic relationships of
The research team will analyze the genes in both maize and switchgrass. Switchgrass is another plant investigated for biofuel production, but it also needs modification to increase yields.
Researchers already know that most plants use about 10 percent of their entire genome for cell wall construction, but very little is known about the specific functions of those genes.
"Maize has the same genes arranged in the same order
In the United States, ethanol is mainly made from corn because starch in the kernels is easily converted to sugar for fermentation to the alternative fuel. Scientists are studying ways to more easily produce fuel from plant biomass, which is composed of cell walls.
Identifying and classifying the genes for cell wall building and regulation in maize also will help determine how grasses grow and develop.
A U.S. Department of Energy/U.S. Department of Agriculture research program to accelerate development of biofuels from plants funds Carpita and McCann's genomic plant cell wall construction study with a $1.2 million grant.
Writer: Susan A. Steeves, (765) 496-7481, firstname.lastname@example.org
Sources: Nicholas Carpita, (765) 494-4653, email@example.com
Maureen McCann, (765) 496-1779, firstname.lastname@example.org
Purdue News Service: (765) 494-2096; email@example.com
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