A glycosyl transferase family 43 protein involved in xylan biosynthesis is associated with straw digestibility in Brachypodium distachyon

Caragh Whitehead, Francisco J. Ostos Garrido, Matthieu Reymond, Rachael Simister, Assaf Distelfeld, Sergio G. Atienza, Fernando Piston, Leonardo D. Gomez, Simon J. McQueen-Mason

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The recalcitrance of secondary plant cell walls to digestion constrains biomass use for the production of sustainable bioproducts and for animal feed. We screened a population of Brachypodium recombinant inbred lines (RILs) for cell wall digestibility using commercial cellulases and detected a quantitative trait locus (QTL) associated with this trait. Examination of the chromosomal region associated with this QTL revealed a candidate gene that encodes a putative glycosyl transferase family (GT) 43 protein, orthologue of IRX14 in Arabidopsis, and hence predicted to be involved in the biosynthesis of xylan. Arabinoxylans form the major matrix polysaccharides in cell walls of grasses, such as Brachypodium. The parental lines of the RIL population carry alternative nonsynonymous polymorphisms in the BdGT43A gene, which were inherited in the RIL progeny in a manner compatible with a causative role in the variation in straw digestibility. In order to validate the implied role of our candidate gene in affecting straw digestibility, we used RNA interference to lower the expression levels of the BdGT43A gene in Brachypodium. The biomass of the silenced lines showed higher digestibility supporting a causative role of the BdGT43A gene, suggesting that it might form a good target for improving straw digestibility in crops.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)974-985
Number of pages12
JournalNew Phytologist
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 2018
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We would like to thank David Garvin for the generous gift of the Brachypodium RIL population. We are also grateful to the University of York Bioscience Technology Facility for performing the SECMALLS analysis. C.W.’s work was funded by a Fellowship from the Burgess Foundation. Research at the CNAP was funded by The European Commission’s Seventh Framework Programme (FP7), project Renewall (211982), and by BBSRC projects BB/G016178 and BB/G016194.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018 The Authors. New Phytologist © 2018 New Phytologist Trust


  • Brachypodium
  • GT43
  • biomass
  • gene silencing
  • saccharification
  • xylan

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Plant Science


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