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Improved Crops with Increased Galactan Content


Researchers at the JBEI have developed a suite of technologies to engineer feedstock plants with increased galactan content. Galactans are composed of hexoses that are easily fermented, in contrast to the hemicellulose xylan, the most abundant non-cellulosic component of biomass, which is composed of pentoses, which are difficult to ferment. By increasing galactan content, the JBEI technology has the potential to increase digestibility and yield of fermentable sugars of feedstocks. Galactan also has the potential to substitute for pentosans, polysaccharides made of pentoses, in lignocellulosic biomass. Specifically, the technology involves overexpressing Arabidopsis beta-1,4-galactan synthase genes. These can be expressed alone or in conjunction with genes involved in UDP-Galactose biosynthesis, thus increasing the availability of UDP-galactose to increase both beta-1,4-galactan in the cell walls and, more generally, the galactose component of cell wall matrix polysaccharides. Furthermore, the genes may be expressed in conjunction with genes encoding specific UDP-galactose transporters with a preference for pectin-related transport. The technology is applicable to a large number of feedstock plants including Arabidopsis, poplar, eucalyptus, rice, switchgrass, pine and others.
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