Improving barley for biofuel production – investigating the role of 4CL and CCR in the lignin biosynthesis pathway

  • Monika Zwirek

    Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


    One of the challenges in the 21st Century is to overcome the recalcitrance of lignocellulose for the production of liquid biofuels. Lignin is one of the key factors in this recalcitrance. Grasses such as Miscanthus and switchgrass could become major sources of lignocellulose. Barley has potential as a genetically-tractable research model for such novel bioenergy crops and also as a bioenergy crop itself. This thesis concerns the 4CL and the CCR enzymes on the lignin pathway which were chosen as the targets to manipulate lignin in barley. They were selected because there is evidence that suppression of each of them in dicot species can lead to increased saccharification. The 4CL and CCR genes constitute multigene families where members have different expression patterns. RNAi was used to down-regulate 4CL1 and CCR1 using a constitutive promoter via Agrobacterium-mediated transformation of barley. From an extensive screen of the primary transformants for changes in protein level and lignin content, six CCR and four 4CL lines were taken forward for detailed analysis. Antibodies were also raised against barley 4CL and CCR recombinant proteins and these showed substantial reductions in the respective target protein levels in the RNAi lines. Both 4CL and CCR transgenic lines had significant reductions in lignin content, and CCR lines had changes in lignin structure due to changes in the proportions of acid soluble and acid insoluble lignin. No substantial consistent adverse effects on key agronomic traits were apparent in the 4CL and CCR transgenics. Selected 4CL and CCR transgenics had improved saccharification yield after using three different pretreatment methods, which is a desirable feature for biofuel production.
    Date of Award2013
    Original languageEnglish
    SupervisorClaire Halpin (Supervisor)


    • Lignin
    • Transgenics
    • 4CL
    • CCR
    • Barley
    • Saccharification
    • Hordeum vulgare
    • Cell wall
    • Lignocellulosic biofuel
    • RNAi suppression

    Cite this