In the cell walls of grasses ferulic acid is esterified to arabinosyl residues in arabinoxylans that can then undergo oxidative coupling reactions to form ferulate dehydrodimers, trimers and oligomers which function to cross-link cell-wall polysaccharides, limiting cell wall degradability. Fungal ferulic acid esterase can release both esterified monomeric and dimeric ferulic acids from these cell wall arabinoxylans making the cell wall more susceptible to further enzymatic attack and increasing cell wall degradability. Non-embryogenic cell suspension cultures of Festuca arundinacea expressing a Aspergillus niger ferulic acid esterase (faeA) targeted to either the apoplast, or endoplasmic reticulum under the control of a constitutive actin promoter, or to the vacuole under the control of a soybean heat shock promoter, were established and FAE activity determined in the cells and medium during a growth cycle. Analysis of the ester-linked ferulates of the cell walls showed that all three transformed cell lines had both reduced ferulate levels and increased levels of xylanase mediated release of wall phenolics on autodigestion as well as increased rates of cell wall digestion in a simulated rumen environment, when compared to control non-transformed cells.
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