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Key to easier xylan degradation

Genes expressing two key enzymes controlling the biosynthesis of the polysaccharide, xylan, in plants have been identified by researchers from the UK’s Cambridge University. Xylan is a major component of lignocellulose and accounts for around one-third of the total sugar content in plants that could be utilised to produce bioethanol. However, it is difficult to degrade to make its component sugars available for fermentation. Knocking out the genes results in xylan that is easier to break down. The scientists found that, plants without a functional version of the two enzymes grew at normal rates and reached a normal size, despite having stems that were slightly weaker than normal.

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