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The effect of altered lignin composition on mechanical properties of CINNAMYL ALCOHOL DEHYDROGENASE (CAD) deficient poplars

  • Özparpucu, Merve1
  • Gierlinger, Notburga2
  • Burgert, Ingo1, 3
  • Van Acker, Rebecca4, 5
  • Vanholme, Ruben4, 5
  • Boerjan, Wout4, 5
  • Pilate, Gilles6
  • Déjardin, Annabelle6
  • Rüggeberg, Markus1, 3
  • 1 ETH Zurich, Institute for Building Materials (IfB), Zurich, 8093, Switzerland , Zurich (Switzerland)
  • 2 University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences Vienna, Institute for Biophysics, Vienna, 1190, Austria , Vienna (Austria)
  • 3 EMPA, Laboratory of Applied Wood Materials, Dübendorf, 8600, Switzerland , Dübendorf (Switzerland)
  • 4 Ghent University, Department of Plant Biotechnology and Bioinformatics, Ghent, 9052, Belgium , Ghent (Belgium)
  • 5 VIB Center for Plant Systems Biology, Ghent, 9052, Belgium , Ghent (Belgium)
  • 6 AGPF, INRA, Orléans, 45075, France , Orléans (France)
Published Article
Publication Date
Dec 21, 2017
DOI: 10.1007/s00425-017-2828-z
Springer Nature


Main conclusionCAD-deficient poplars enabled studying the influence of altered lignin composition on mechanical properties. Severe alterations in lignin composition did not influence the mechanical properties.Wood represents a hierarchical fiber-composite material with excellent mechanical properties. Despite its wide use and versatility, its mechanical behavior has not been entirely understood. It has especially been challenging to unravel the mechanical function of the cell wall matrix. Lignin engineering has been a useful tool to increase the knowledge on the mechanical function of lignin as it allows for modifications of lignin content and composition and the subsequent studying of the mechanical properties of these transgenics. Hereby, in most cases, both lignin composition and content are altered and the specific influence of lignin composition has hardly been revealed. Here, we have performed a comprehensive micromechanical, structural, and spectroscopic analysis on xylem strips of transgenic poplar plants, which are downregulated for cinnamyl alcohol dehydrogenase (CAD) by a hairpin-RNA-mediated silencing approach. All parameters were evaluated on the same samples. Raman microscopy revealed that the lignin of the hpCAD poplars was significantly enriched in aldehydes and reduced in the (relative) amount of G-units. FTIR spectra indicated pronounced changes in lignin composition, whereas lignin content was not significantly changed between WT and the hpCAD poplars. Microfibril angles were in the range of 18°–24° and were not significantly different between WT and transgenics. No significant changes were observed in mechanical properties, such as tensile stiffness, ultimate stress, and yield stress. The specific findings on hpCAD poplar allowed studying the specific influence of lignin composition on mechanics. It can be concluded that the changes in lignin composition in hpCAD poplars did not affect the micromechanical tensile properties.

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