Fan Yang is a postdoctoral Researcher in Dr. Ana Alonso’s laboratory at The Ohio State University. Her major interest is the plant metabolic engineering to improve bioenergy production and quality in bioenergy crops by combining fundamental mechanisms studies with applicable plant engineering studies. Her previous research focused on understanding the molecular mechanisms of monolignol transport in Arabidopsis; engineering secondary cell wall deposition in Arabidopsis and establishing gene regulatory network controlling phenolics metabolisms in maize. Her current project is to develop resources and tools to improve oil content and quality in Pennycress, a very promising bioenergy crop, by integrating transcriptomics, metabolomics and fluxomics tools. The resources are essential for increasing oil production and quality of oils for bioenergy in Pennycress.
Statement of the Problem: Bioenergy crops, which have potential for jet fuel production and do not compete with food crops, are urgently needed. Our strategy to address the challenge is to develop pennycress (Thlaspi arvense), a member of the Brassicaceae, as a dedicated bioenergy crop, taking advantage of its ability to produce oil in its seeds that is ideally suited as a renewable source of jet fuel. Moreover, pennycress performs well on marginal land, has a short maturity time and grows off-season, serving as a winter cover crop, and complementing the food crops. However, to become an economically viable and sustainable source of jet fuel, molecular and genetic resources need to be developed, and integrated with techno-economic analyses to guide strategies for increase oil production through breeding and/or genetic manipulation. These are the gaps that this project intends to fill. Methodology & Theoretical Orientation: 1) We are determining variation in genome-wide gene expression (derived from RNA-Seq) and intracellular metabolites (derived from metabolomics) in embryos from pennycress natural accessions. 2) We are generating a flux map of carbon partitioning in developing pennycress embryos, and will overlay metabolic maps with transcriptomics and metabolomics to identify metabolic bottlenecks in oil accumulation. Finally, we are using 13C-metabolic flux analysis to validate bottlenecks in two accessions with contrasting oil contents. 3) We are analyzing techno-economics of pennycress based agronomic and supply systems to establish targets for oil metabolic engineering, and developing a public seed collection of pennycress mutants and transgenic lines to facilitate community synergy. Findings: 1) Identify candidate genes and biomarkers associated with oil accumulation and composition 2) Identify targets to improve oil content and composition. 3) Establish metabolic engineering targets and develop community resources. Conclusion & Significance: Taken together, the knowledge and resources will facilitate rational breeding and metabolic engineering of pennycress.
Isao Hasegawa was graduated from the School of Industrial Chemistry, Kyoto University in 1999. He received his PhD in 2007 under the supervision of Professor Kazuhiro Mae. At present, he is an Associate Professor at the Department of Chemical, Energy and Environmental Engineering of Kansai University and his research interests focus on the development of the new thermochemical conversion of biomass, pretreatment methods and pyrolysis kinetics.
Recently, the beneficial use of unused biomass has been examined because global environmental conservation was an important subject in relation to the countermeasure for global warming and the exhaustion of oil resources. Lignin, one of the main components of biomass, prohibits the progress of applications because of its complex structure. Lignin is also obtained as a byproduct from paper pulp industry and is hard to use because that is quite denaturalized. In this study, we tried to depolymerize alkali lignin using hydrogen peroxide and the material for resin was prepared as utilization of lignin. Alkali lignin (Aldrich) was fractionated into acetone-soluble and -insoluble by extraction at room temperature. 1.0 g of the insoluble fraction, 0.5 ml-10 ml 30wt% hydrogen peroxide was mixed in a beaker. The beaker was immersed in an oil bath preheated to 60ºC and reaction time was 24 h. After reaction, product solid was fractionated by acetone extraction operation at room temperature. Molecular weight distribution (MWD) of this aceton-soluble of lignin was measured by high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC), and average molecular weights were calculated from MWDs. Aceton-soluble of lignin obtained by oxidation treatment, hexamine were mixed. Heat of curing reaction of the mixture was measured by differential thermal analysis (DTA). From the results, it was found that the number and weight basis average molecular weights decreased with increasing the amount of hydrogen peroxide. This might be because degradation of alkali lignin was promoted with hydrogen peroxide. The maximum yield of aceton-soluble was about 25 wt%. DTA profiles for the acetone-soluble of treated lignin and novolak (standard curing agent) shows exothermic reaction associated with curing in both cases for the treated lignin and novolak. It was assumed that resin could be prepared using the treated lignin as materials.