Policy / Systems / Technology

March 10, 2007


Scientists Discover Key Gene in Terrestrial Biomass Production

Keywords: Ecosystems / Biodiversity Environmental Technology Government University / Research institute 

The Institute of Physical and Chemical Research (RIKEN), a governmental research institute in Japan, announced on December 11, 2006 that it had discovered a gene that controls the production of more terrestrial biomass than any other gene.

Forests make up about 30 percent of the earth's land surface (around 3.5 billion hectares). Biomass energy stored in forest trees is estimated to amount to between 1.2 and 2.4 trillion tons, equivalent to almost 100 times the energy annually consumed by humans. Most of this land biomass consists of wood tissue in tree trunks.

Wood cells, or xylem cells in biological terms, are classified into "fibers" that support plant body, "vessel elements" that transport water, and "trachieds" that serve both purposes. These tissues commonly have a very thick layer of cell walls, called the "secondary cell wall," which stores biomass energy. This suggests that secondary cell walls in xylem constitute the largest amount of biomass on land.

Working with Dr. Zheng-Hua Ye at Georgia University in the United States, a team from the Laboratory for Gene Regulation at RIKEN's Plant Science Center has confirmed that the SND1 gene is a key regulator in secondary wall synthesis. It is expected that further studies could lead to the creation of a highly productive "super tree" that features easy conversion into bio-energy and other traits.


Posted: 2007/03/10 11:28:06 AM
Japanese version