Plant Pathology Department


Date of this Version



Sattler SE and Funnell-Harris DL (2013) Modifying lignin to improve bioenergy feedstocks: strengthening the barrier against pathogens? Front. Plant Sci. 4:70. doi: 10.3389/fpls.2013.00070


This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License.


Lignin is a ubiquitous polymer present in cell walls of all vascular plants, where it rigidifies and strengthens the cell wall structure through covalent cross-linkages to cell wall polysaccharides. The presence of lignin makes the cell wall recalcitrant to conversion into fermentable sugars for bioenergy uses.Therefore, reducing lignin content and modifying its linkages have become major targets for bioenergy feedstock development through either biotechnology or traditional plant breeding. In addition, lignin synthesis has long been implicated as an important plant defense mechanism against pathogens, because lignin synthesis is often induced at the site of pathogen attack. This article explores the impact of lignin modifications on the susceptibility of a range of plant species to their associated pathogens, and the implications for development of feedstocks for the second-generation biofuels industry. Surprisingly, there are some instances where plants modified in lignin synthesis may display increased resistance to associated pathogens, which is explored in this article.