Investigating the Role of Extensin Proteins in Poplar Biomass Recalcitrance

Steve Decker, Margaret Fleming, Patricia Bedinger

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus Citations


The biological conversion of cellulosic biomass to biofuel is hindered by cell wall recalcitrance, which can limit the ability of cellulases to access and break down cellulose. The purpose of this study was to investigate whether hydroxyproline-rich cell wall proteins (extensins) are present in poplar stem biomass, and whether these proteins may contribute to recalcitrance. Three classical extensin genes were identified in Populus trichocarpa through bioinformatic analysis of poplar genome sequences, with the following proposed names: PtEXTENSIN1 (Potri.001G019700); PtEXTENSIN2 (Potri.001G020100); PtEXTENSIN3 (Potri.018G050100). Tissue print immunoblots localized the extensin proteins in poplar stems to regions near the vascular cambium. Different thermochemical pretreatments reduced but did not eliminate hydroxyproline (Hyp, a proxy for extensins) from the biomass. Protease treatment of liquid hot water-pretreated poplar biomass reduced Hyp content by a further 16% and increased subsequent glucose yield by 20%. These data suggest that extensins may contribute to recalcitrance in pretreated poplar biomass, and that incorporating protease treatment into pretreatment protocols could result in a small but significant increase in the yield of fermentable glucose.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)4727-4744
Number of pages18
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1 May 2016

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/JA-2700-66526


  • Acid fungal protease
  • Biomass recalcitrance
  • Cellulosic biofuel
  • Extensin
  • Hydroxyproline-rich glycoprotein
  • Poplar
  • Pretreatment


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