Plant Cell Wall Biochemistry and Biofuels

Current Research Interests

Cell wall architecture and its dynamic changes are important for many aspects of plant biology including organogenesis (e.g. root formation), pathogen defense, and stress tolerance. Further, cell wall properties directly influence the quality of crops as food and biofuel feedstocks. In grasses (like rice, wheat, and corn) hydroxycinnamic acids (particularly ferulic acid) have been identified as key molecules for regulating the integrity of grass cell walls, perhaps by promoting cross-linking between polysaccharide and lignin polymers.

However, the exact mechanisms of action and pathways of incorporation are largely still obscure. My current work as a member of the Bartley lab focuses on:

    1. Elucidating the effects that changes in the type and location of hydroxycinnamic acid content have on cell wall properties
    2. Biochemical characterization of a subclade of BAHD acyltransferases involved in hydroxycinnamic acid incorporation