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Bioengineering lignocellulosic biomass in maize

Maize is one of the major crops worldwide and has been predominantly used as a forage crop due to its high nutritional value. In recent years, to substitute the contaminant fossil fuels, maize has been also used as source for the production of bioethanol. Initially, bioethanol has been produced from sugars accumulated in the seeds (first generation biofuel), directly competing with fields dedicated to food and feed. A solution to avoid this contest is the use of the maize stover (lignocellulosic biomass) but its huge amount of cellulose is nowadays discarded due to its interaction with the lignin polymer. These interactions imply that an important percentage of these polysaccharides are not digested by ruminants or extracted for the production of cellulosic bioethanol (secondary generation biofuel), thus, reducing the nutritional and energetic values of this biomass.

Our main interests are addressed to understand how the modification of lignin genes affects the content and composition of the lignin and polysaccharides polymers within the maize cell walls. This knowledge is essential for further undertaking new biotechnological approaches leading to new maize lines with improved nutritional and energetic values of the lignocellulosic biomass, thus making its high polysaccharides content available for these industrial proposes. In 2013, our group joined the Spanish biotechnological network “LignoCel”.

Selected Publications

Vélez-Bermúdez IC., Salazar-Henao JE., Fornalé S., López-Vidriero I., Franco-Zorrilla JM., Grotewold E., Gray J., Solano R., Schmidt W., Pagés M., Riera M. and Caparros-Ruiz D.

(2015) A MYB/ZML complex regulates wound-induced lignin genes in maize.

The Plant Cell 27: 3245-3259


Fornalé S., Rencoret J., Garcia-Calvo L., Capellades M., Encina A., Santiago R., Rigau J., Gutiérrez A., Del Río JC., and Caparros-Ruiz D.

(2015) Cell wall modifications triggered by the down-regulation of Coumarate 3-hydroxylase-1 in maize.

Plant Science 236:272-282.


Fornalé S., Lopez E., Salazar-Henao JE., Fernández-Nohales P., Rigau J. and Caparros-Ruiz D.

(2014) AtMYB7, a new player in the regulation of UV-sunscreens in Arabidopsis thaliana.

Plant & Cell Physiology 55: 507-516.


Gray J., Caparros-Ruiz D. & Grotewold E.

Grass phenylpropanoids: Regulate before using!

Plant Science 184:112-120 (Review)


Fornalé S., Capellades M., Encina A., Wang K., Irar S., Lapierre C., Ruel K., Joseleau JP., Berenguer J., Puigdomènech P., Rigau J. & Caparrós-Ruiz D.

Altered lignin biosynthesis improves cellulosic bioethanol production in transgenic maize plants downregulated for cinnamyl alcohol dehydrogenase

Molecular Plant 5: 817-830

This work has been considered of high interest for the Renewable Energy sector (http://reginnovations.com/key-scientific-articles/altered-lignin-biosynthesis-improves-cellulosic-bioethanol-production-in-transgenic-maize-plants-down-regulated-for-cinnamyl-alcohol-dehydrogenase/)


Puigdomènech P. & Caparrós-Ruiz D.

La energía de los vegetales

Contribución de las plantas y los microorganismos a la producción de energía, 1ª edición, Volumen 21 (ISBN: 978-84-614-6173-8). Editores: Fundación Gas Natural.


Fornalé S., Shi X., Chai C., Encina A., Irar S., Capellades M., Fuguet E., Torres JL., Rovira P., Puigdomènech P., Rigau J., Grotewold E., Gray J. & Caparrós-Ruiz D.

ZmMYB31 directly represses maize lignin genes and redirects the phenylpropanoid metabolic flux

The Plant Journal 64: 633-644


Mélida H., Encina A., Álvarez JM., Acebes JL. & Caparrós-Ruiz D.

Unravelling the biochemical and molecular networks involved in maize cells habituation to the cellulose biosynthesis inhibitor dichlobenil

Molecular Plant 3: 842-853


Bashandy T., Guilleminot J., Vernoux T., Caparrós-Ruiz D., Ljung K., Meyer Y. & Reichheld JP.

Interplay between the NADP-Linked Thioredoxin and Glutathione Systems in Arabidopsis Auxin Signaling

Plant Cell 22: 376-391


Sonbol FM., Fornalé S., Capellades M., Encina A., Touriño S., Torres JL., Rovira P., Ruel K., Puigdomènech P., Rigau J. & Caparrós-Ruiz D.

The maize ZmMYB42 represses the phenylpropanoid pathway and affects the cell wall structure, composition and degradability in Arabidopsis thaliana

Plant Molecular Biology 70: 283-296. (with cover figure)


Genovesi V., Fornale S., Fry S., Ruel K., Ferrer P., Encina A., Sonbol FM., Bosch J., Puigdomenech P., Rigau J. & Caparros-Ruiz D.

ZmXTH1, a new xyloglucan endotransglucosylase/hydrolase in maize, affects cell wall structure and composition in Arabidopsis thaliana

Journal of Experimental Botany 59: 875-889


Fornale S., Sonbol FM., Maes T., Capellades M., Puigdomenech P., Rigau J. & Caparrós-Ruiz D.

Down-regulation of the maize and Arabidopsis thaliana caffeic acid O-methyl-transferase genes by two new maize R2R3-MYB transcription factors

Plant Molecular Biology 62: 809-823


Caparrós-Ruiz D., Fornalé S., Civardi L., Puigdomènech P., & Rigau J.

Isolation and characterisation of a family of laccases in maize

Plant Science 171: 217-225