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Identification and Alteration of Rice-Diverged Glycosyltransferases for Optimizing Biofuel Production from Grasses


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  • Developing biofuel feedstocks
  • Creating novel feedstock plants


  • Provides a model for engineering Miscanthus, switchgrass and other feedstocks
  • Establishes foundational data for engineering feedstock plants
  • Novel database facilitates data set comparison


Glycosyltransferases (GTs) are enzymes that play a role in the formation of polysaccharides in the plant cell wall. Pamela Ronald and researchers at the Joint BioEnergy Institute (JBEI) have identified 609 potential GT genes (769 gene models) in rice. From this group, 33 rice-diverged GT genes (45 gene models) with high expression in above ground tissues were identified.

Besides being a potential biofuel feedstock itself, rice serves as a model for dedicated energy crops such as Miscanthus and switchgrass. JBEI researchers anticipate that engineering the identified group of rice-diverged GT genes will optimize biofuel production.

Key to the identification of the rice-diverged GTs was JBEI’s novel database format to host and analyze diverse sets of functional genomic information in a phylogenetic context. Current database formats display only a single gene or field at a time, preventing simultaneous comparisons of multiple data sets and multi-gene families. The JBEI database, however, allows simultaneous visualization of all the rice GT families and subfamilies rather than analyzing rice GTs one at a time. The format also allows for comparison of the features of rice GTs between and within different families.

The Joint BioEnergy Institute (JBEI, is a scientific partnership led by the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and including the Sandia National Laboratories, the University of California campuses of Berkeley and Davis, the Carnegie Institution for Science and the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. JBEI’s primary scientific mission is to advance the development of the next generation of biofuels.



  • Patent pending. Available for licensing or collaborative research.

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Pei-Jian Cao, Laura E. Bartley, Ki-Hong Jung, Pamela C. Ronald. “Construction of a Rice Glycosyltransferase Phylogenomic Database and Identification of Rice-Diverged Glycosyltransferases,” Molecular Plant, Vol. 1, No. 5, pp. 858-877 (2008).




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