Washington, March 9 : Researchers from Purdue University in US have defined a new biochemical pathway in plants which could mean better biofuel sources in the future.
According to researchers, the newly defined signaling pathway may provide the scientific tools to design plants that will yield larger quantities of alternative transportation fuels than currently can be produced.
"The pathway moves materials that determine cell shape and size through a system of signaling proteins," said Dan Szymanski, a plant geneticist and cellular biologist.
By learning more about the growth and development process, it may be possible to engineer plants with improved properties such as cell walls that are more massive or are more easily fermented in the biofuel process.
"We expect that cell wall material will be a major source of biomass from plants designated for biofuel production," said Szymanski. "We need to learn more about how plant cells control the quality and amount of cell wall material," he added.
Szymanski and his research team investigated plant growth and cell wall development from several scientific approaches in determining the cascade of events that leads to changes in the cell wall.
They discovered that a protein called "SPIKE1" directs the protein-signaling pathway. They hypothesize that SPIKE1 may both generate and organize protein complex signaling.
Szymanski and his colleagues were able to demonstrate that one of SPIKE1's functions is to control production of actin filament, which defines localized cell regions for delivery and recycling of growth materials.
"Plant cells grow by expansion, which is cell wall synthesis coupled with an increase in cell size," said Szymanski.
"The key questions we need to answer in trying to create plants more valuable for biofuel production center on understanding how plants integrate metabolism, cell growth and biomass production," he added.
They also need to discover what activates SPIKE1. When the researchers understand enough about the processes involved in plant cell growth and development, then they may be able to design plants that are bigger with more cell wall that can be processed into biofuel.
"Learning more about SPIKE1 likely will help us gain a better understanding of the mechanics and regulation involved with the pathways that control cell architecture and development in plants, and also may be relevant to animal and human growth and development," said Szymanski.