Identification of grass-specific enzyme that acylates monolignols with p-coumarate

Saunia Withers, Fachuang Lu, Hoon Kim, Yimin Zhu, John Ralph, Curtis G. Wilkerson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

115 Scopus citations


Lignin is a major component of plant cell walls that is essential to their function. However, the strong bonds that bind the various subunits of lignin, and its cross-linking with other plant cell wall polymers, make it one of the most important factors in the recalcitrance of plant cell walls against polysaccharide utilization. Plants make lignin from a variety of monolignols including p-coumaryl, coniferyl, and sinapyl alcohols to produce the three primary lignin units: p-hydroxyphenyl, guaiacyl, and syringyl, respectively, when incorporated into the lignin polymer. In grasses, these monolignols can be enzymatically preacylated by p-coumarates prior to their incorporation into lignin, and these monolignol conjugates can also be "monomer" precursors of lignin. Although monolignol p-coumarate-derived units may comprise up to 40% of the lignin in some grass tissues, the p-coumarate moiety from such conjugates does not enter into the radical coupling (polymerization) reactions of lignification. With a greater understanding of monolignol p-coumarate conjugates, grass lignins could be engineered to contain fewer pendent p-coumarate groups and more monolignol conjugates that improve lignin cleavage. We have cloned and expressed an enzyme from rice that has p-coumarate monolignol transferase activity and determined its kinetic parameters.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)8347-8355
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Biological Chemistry
Issue number11
StatePublished - Mar 9 2012

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology


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