Downregulation of barley ferulate 5-hydroxylase dramatically alters straw lignin structure without impact on mechanical properties

Reza Shafiei, Matthew Hooper, Christopher McClellan, Helena Oakey, Jennifer Stephens, Catherine Lapierre, Yukiko Tsuji, Geert Goeminne, Ruben Vanholme, Wout Boerjan, John Ralph, Claire Halpin (Lead / Corresponding author)

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)
71 Downloads (Pure)


Barley is a major cereal crop for temperate climates, and a diploid genetic model for polyploid wheat. Cereal straw biomass is an attractive source of feedstock for green technologies but lignin, a key determinant of feedstock recalcitrance, complicates bio-conversion processes. However, manipulating lignin content to improve the conversion process could negatively affect agronomic traits. An alternative approach is to manipulate lignin composition which influences the physical and chemical properties of straw. This study validates the function of a barley ferulate 5-hydroxylase gene and demonstrates that its downregulation using the RNA-interference approach substantially impacts lignin composition. We identified five barley genes having putative ferulate 5-hydroxylase activity. Downregulation of HvF5H1 substantially reduced the lignin syringyl/guaiacyl (S/G) ratio in straw while the lignin content, straw mechanical properties, plant growth habit, and grain characteristics all remained unaffected. Metabolic profiling revealed significant changes in the abundance of 173 features in the HvF5H1-RNAi lines. The drastic changes in the lignin polymer of transgenic lines highlight the plasticity of barley lignification processes and the associated potential for manipulating and improving lignocellulosic biomass as a feedstock for green technologies. On the other hand, our results highlight some differences between the lignin biosynthetic pathway in barley, a temperate climate grass, and the warm climate grass, rice, and underscore potential diversity in the lignin biosynthetic pathways in grasses.
Original languageEnglish
Article number1125003
Number of pages15
JournalFrontiers in Plant Science
Publication statusPublished - 16 Jan 2023


  • RNAi
  • S/G
  • barley
  • bioeconomy
  • biosynthetic pathway
  • ferulate 5-hydroxylase
  • lignin
  • straw

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Plant Science


Dive into the research topics of 'Downregulation of barley ferulate 5-hydroxylase dramatically alters straw lignin structure without impact on mechanical properties'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this