Chapter 24: The Compound Middle Lamella as a Target for Improved Deconstruction of Woody Biomass

Nicholas Carpita, Maureen McCann

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


The compound middle lamella (CML) of woody angiosperm species, such as poplar (Populus spp.), birch (Betula spp.), and alder (Alnus spp.), and gymnosperm species, such as pine (Pinus spp.), Douglas fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii), and spruce (Picea spp.), is an amalgam of lignin, hemicellulosic xylans, and pectic polysaccharides that is the major site of cell-cell adhesion of fibre cells and tracheary elements. In grass species, such as sorghum (Sorghum bicolor), switchgrass (Panicum virgatum), and sugarcane (Saccharum officinarum), a phenylpropanoid network deposited in xylan-rich primary walls extends into the lignified CML. This review traces the early history of discovery of the molecular components of the CML and presents the current state of knowledge on the development of the CML in bioenergy-relevant woody species and grasses. This chapter emphasises the role of the CML in the recalcitrance of biomass to deconstruction by mechanical and enzymatic means for conversion to biofuels and valuable bioproducts. The use of genetic engineering to alter CML composition and structure to facilitate biomass deconstruction and to redesign wood to generate materials with novel properties is discussed.
Original languageAmerican English
Title of host publicationPlant Cell Walls: Research Milestones and Conceptual Insights
EditorsA. Geitmann
StatePublished - 2023

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/CH-2700-83201


  • cell-cell adhesion
  • compound middle lamella
  • hemicellulose
  • lignin
  • pectin
  • poplar
  • woody biomass


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