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Pure Appl. Chem., 2001, Vol. 73, No. 3, pp. 561-566

Gains achieved by molecular approaches in the area of lignification

Alain-M. Boudet* and Matthieu Chabannes

UMR CNRS/UPS 5546, Pôle de Biotechnologie Végétale, 24 Chemin de Borde-Rouge, BP 17 Auzeville, F-31326 Castanet Tolosan cedex, France

Abstract: In this article we highlight the contribution of molecular biology and lignin genetic engineering toward a better understanding of lignin biosynthesis and spatio-temporal deposition of lignin. Specific examples from the literature and from our laboratory will serve to underline the chemical flexibility of lignins, the complexity of the regulatory circuits involved in their synthesis, and the specific behavior of different cell types within the xylem. We will also focus on strategies aiming to reduce the lignin content or to modify the lignin composition of plants and present their impact on plant development. We will show that the ectopic expression of a specific transgene may have a different impact, depending on the genetic background, and that plants with a severe reduction in lignin content may undergo normal development. Lignification is currently benefiting enormously from recent developments in molecular biology and transgenesis, and the progress made opens the way for future developments to study how the walls of lignified plant cells are built and organized.