Differences in S/G Ratio in Natural Poplar Variants Do Not Predict Catalytic Depolymerization Monomer Yields

Gregg Beckham, Rui Katahira, Michelle Nolker, Kelsey Kinley, Eric Anderson, Michael Stone, Wellington Muchero, Yuriy Roman-Leshkov

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

127 Scopus Citations


The ratio of syringyl (S) and guaiacyl (G) units in lignin has been regarded as a major factor in determining the maximum monomer yield from lignin depolymerization. This limit arises from the notion that G units are prone to C-C bond formation during lignin biosynthesis, resulting in less ether linkages that generate monomers. This study uses reductive catalytic fractionation (RCF) in flow-through reactors as an analytical tool to depolymerize lignin in poplar with naturally varying S/G ratios, and directly challenges the common conception that the S/G ratio predicts monomer yields. Rather, this work suggests that the plant controls C-O and C-C bond content by regulating monomer transport during lignin biosynthesis. Overall, our results indicate that additional factors beyond the monomeric composition of native lignin are important in developing a fundamental understanding of lignin biosynthesis.

Original languageAmerican English
Article number2033
Number of pages10
JournalNature Communications
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1 Dec 2019

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019, The Author(s).

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/JA-2A00-73032


  • biomass pretreatment
  • flow-through extraction
  • lignin conversion
  • lignin first
  • reductive catalysis
  • S/G ratio
  • semi-continuous processing


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