Agronomy and Horticulture Department


Date of this Version



Plant Molecular Biology (2020) 103:269–285



This is a U.S. government work and not under copyright protection in the U.S


Ferulate 5-hydroxylase (F5H) of the monolignol pathway catalyzes the hydroxylation of coniferyl alcohol, coniferaldehyde and ferulic acid to produce 5-hydroxyconiferyl moieties, which lead to the formation of sinapic acid and syringyl (S) lignin monomers. In contrast, guaiacyl (G) lignin, the other major type of lignin monomer, is derived from polymerization of coniferyl alcohol. In this study, the effects of manipulating S-lignin biosynthesis in sorghum (Sorghum bicolor) were evaluated. Overexpression of sorghum F5H (SbF5H), under the control of the CaMV 35S promoter, increased both S-lignin levels and the ratio of S/G lignin, while plant growth and development remained relatively unaffected. Maüle staining of stalk and leaf midrib sections from SbF5H overexpression lines indicated that the lignin composition was altered. Ectopic expression of SbF5H did not affect the gene expression of other monolignol pathway genes. In addition, brown midrib 12-ref (bmr12-ref), a nonsense mutation in the sorghum caffeic acid O-methyltransferase (COMT) was combined with 35S::SbF5H through cross-pollination to examine effects on lignin synthesis. The stover composition from bmr12 35S::SbF5H plants more closely resembled bmr12 stover than 35S::SbF5H or wild-type (WT) stover; S-lignin and total lignin concentrations were decreased relative to WT or 35S::SbF5H. Likewise, expression of upstream monolignol biosynthetic genes was increased in both bmr12 and bmr12 35S::SbF5H relative to WT or 35S::SbF5H. Overall, these results indicated that overexpression of SbF5H did not compensate for the loss of COMT activity.

Key message -- Overexpression of F5H in sorghum increases S-lignin without increasing total lignin content or affecting plant growth, but it cannot compensate for the loss of COMT activity in monolignol synthesis.

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