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Characterisation of Lignin and Cellulose formation genes in biomass and energy grasses




Vishnu Mohanan

Supervisors: Dr Trevor Hodkinson

Grasses have received considerable attention as a source of woody biomass for bioenergy production to provide alternatives to fossil fuels. Potential bioenergy grasses include Miscanthus, maize, switchgrass and several woody bamboos. Most grasses are herbaceous but some subfamilies have evolved woodiness. Bamboos (subfamily Bambusoideae) have evolved a woody character via enhancement of the lignocellulosic component of vascular tissue, especially vessels. Reeds (e.g. Arundo, Phragmites, subfamily Arundinoideae) and Panicoideae (e.g. Saccharum, Miscanthus, Panicum) have also evolved this trait. It is not known if they have achieved this via alternative biosynthetic paths/genes. Grass cell walls differ from other angiosperms in their major structural polysaccharides, pectins, proteins and phenolic compounds. Recent advances in genomics have revealed cellulose synthase‐like (Csl) gene families (unique to grasses) and the CslF gene (unique to Poales, the order to which the grass family belongs). An understanding of how these gene families and lignocellulosic biosynthesis evolved in grasses is key to improving the processing quality of grasses for bioenergy and the manipulation of the genes in future biotechnology and plant breeding. The project has an overarching aim is the development of grasses as sustainable crops for bioenergy. It also includes evolutionary studies and impacts energy production. It is inter‐institutional, combining crop development (Teagasc) with genetic/evolution studies (TCD). Drs Kellogg and Salamin from the Universities of Missouri, USA and Lausanne, Switzerland will collaborate with the molecular sequencing aspects of the project.

Contact details.
Botany Building, School of Natural Sciences, Trinity College Dublin, Dublin 2. Tel: +353-1-896 2208. Email:

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Last updated 8 November 2017