such as "Introduction", "Conclusion"..etc
December 2008 -- Purdue University researchers found a mechanism that naturally shuts
down cellulose production in plants, and learning how to keep that
switch turned on may be key to enhancing biomass production for
Nicholas Carpita, a professor of botany and plant pathology, said
that small-interfering RNAs (siRNAs) play a normal role in plant
development by shutting off genes involved in primary cell wall growth
in order to begin development of thicker, secondary cell walls.
"These small RNAs were known to play a role in fending off
disease-causing pathogens, but we are only now beginning to understand
their involvement in normal plant development," he said.
Carpita's research team reported its findings in the Dec. 15 early
online issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
"If we can learn to interfere with the down-regulation of cellulose
synthesis, then plants may be able to produce more cellulose, which is
key to biofuels production," Carpita said.
Mick Held, a postdoctoral researcher in Carpita's lab, virologist
Steve Scofield, a U.S. Department of Agriculture research scientist and
adjunct assistant professor of agronomy at Purdue, and Carpita made the
discovery in barley after introducing a virus as a way to "silence"
specific genes and study their functions. The researchers noticed that
the virus had more effect then anticipated.
"The virus hijacked a whole suite of genes, and when we compared the
targeted plant to our control plants we found that the small RNAs were
responsible and already in the controls even without adding the virus,"
Carpita said this let researchers see that the siRNAs - among other
things - regulate and shut down primary cell wall development to begin
secondary wall growth.
"These secondary stages result in characteristics such as tough
rinds of corn stalks, vascular elements to conduct water and fibers for
strength," he said.
The researchers said that delaying or preventing the shutdown of
both primary and secondary cellulose production might enhance total
"Most biofuel researchers believe that cellulose utilization offers
the best path to sustainable ethanol production," Scofield said. "Our
work uncovered a previously unknown mechanism that suggests a way to
increase the amount of cellulose produced in plants."
Other members of the research team were Bryan Penning and Sarah
Kessans of Purdue and Amanda Brandt of the USDA/Ag Research Service,
Crop Production and Pest Control Research Unit located at Purdue.
The research was funded by a U.S. Department of Energy, Energy Biosciences grant.
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