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(BBSRC DTP) Exploiting transcriptional regulation to improve plant cell wall as a feedstock for the sustainable production of biofuels and other chemicals

Project Description

Cellulose is a polymer of glucose and its remarkable structural properties means it is the world’s most abundant biopolymer. Cellulose from higher plants is an abundant source of renewable material that can be used as a source of raw material for chemical and fuel production, or for generating novel biomaterials. Most plant material is composed of woody secondary cell walls. While these represent an abundant source of biomass, the composite nature of the woody cell wall and in particular the presence of the phenolic polymer lignin is a major barrier to accessing and exploiting the carbohydrates in the wall.
There are other cell types of secondary cell walls. In particular, the secondary cell walls of collenchyma that are characterised by a cellulose rich wall that lacks lignin. Tomato plants make a particular kind of ‘angular’ collenchyma, that provides provide strong support for the growing plant and is characterised by localised secondary cell wall deposition that is deposited only in the corners of the cells. This raises interesting question about how the cell wall composition is regulated and how the deposition is localised. We have developed a means of enriching for collenchyma that is suitable for generating high quality RNA for expression analysis. The aim is to analyse the tissue specific expression data to identify genes both involved in synthesis of the cell wall and the transcriptional regulators that control its expression as well as the investigating the role of cytoskeleton in localising secondary cell wall deposition.
The project addresses fundamental question related to the differentiation of plant cell walls. These include what enzymes synthesise cellulose and other cell wall cell wall polymers in the secondary cell wall. Furthermore, the high cellulose and low lignin content of collenchyma cell walls makes them ideal as a feedstock for developing the next generation of renewable feedstocks for the production of biofuels, other chemicals and materials. The project of increasing secondary cell wall deposition in collenchyma and engineer other cell types to produce collenchyma type, cellulose-rich, lignin-free, both of which would dramatically increase the quality of the biomass and make it a much better feedstock for bioprocessing.

Entry Requirements:
Applications are invited from UK/EU nationals only. Applicants must have obtained, or be about to obtain, at least an upper second class honours degree (or equivalent) in a relevant subject.

Funding Notes

This project is to be funded under the BBSRC Doctoral Training Partnership. If you are interested in this project, please make direct contact with the Principal Supervisor to arrange to discuss the project further as soon as possible. You MUST also submit an online application form - full details on how to apply can be found on the BBSRC DTP website View Website

As an equal opportunities institution we welcome applicants from all sections of the community regardless of gender, ethnicity, disability, sexual orientation and transgender status. All appointments are made on merit.

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