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Topochemical distribution of lignin and hydroxycinnamic acids in sugar-cane cell walls and its correlation with the enzymatic hydrolysis of polysaccharides

Background: Lignin and hemicelluloses are the major components limiting enzyme infiltration into cell walls. Determination of the topochemical distribution of lignin and aromatics in sugar cane might provide important data on the recalcitrance of specific cells. We used cellular ultraviolet (UV) microspectrophotometry (UMSP) to topochemically detect lignin and hydroxycinnamic acids in individual fiber, vessel and parenchyma cell walls of untreated and chlorite-treated sugar cane. Internodes, presenting typical vascular bundles and sucrose-storing parenchyma cells, were divided into rind and pith fractions. Results: Vascular bundles were more abundant in the rind, whereas parenchyma cells predominated in the pith region. UV measurements of untreated fiber cell walls gave absorbance spectra typical of grass lignin, with a band at 278 nm and a pronounced shoulder at 315 nm, assigned to the presence of hydroxycinnamic acids linked to lignin and/or to arabino-methylglucurono-xylans. The cell walls of vessels had the highest level of lignification, followed by those of fibers and parenchyma. Pith parenchyma cell walls were characterized by very low absorbance values at 278 nm; however, a distinct peak at 315 nm indicated that pith parenchyma cells are not extensively lignified, but contain significant amounts of hydroxycinnamic acids. Cellular UV image profiles scanned with an absorbance intensity maximum of 278 nm identified the pattern of lignin distribution in the individual cell walls, with the highest concentration occurring in the middle lamella and cell corners. Chlorite treatment caused a rapid removal of hydroxycinnamic acids from parenchyma cell walls, whereas the thicker fiber cell walls were delignified only after a long treatment duration (4 hours). Untreated pith samples were promptly hydrolyzed by cellulases, reaching 63% of cellulose conversion after 72 hours of hydrolysis, whereas untreated rind samples achieved only 20% hydrolyzation. Conclusion: The low recalcitrance of pith cells correlated with the low UV-absorbance values seen in parenchyma cells. Chlorite treatment of pith cells did not enhance cellulose conversion. By contrast, application of the same treatment to rind cells led to significant removal of hydroxycinnamic acids and lignin, resulting in marked enhancement of cellulose conversion by cellulases.



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