Poplar esterified cell wall transformations and metabolic integration (PECTIN) study 








Kolby JardinePlant Physiology, biochemistry of volatile organic compoundsplant physiology, LBNL 

Rebecca Dewhirst, biochemical ecology, LBNL

Cassandra Afseth, biomedical engineering, Illinois

Pubudu HandakumburaMulti-omics approaches in Molecular Plant Phenotyping, PNNL

Robert Young, NMR spectroscopy applications in biophysicalchemistry, PNNL

 Jenny Mortimer, Plant cell wall biosynthesis and metabolism, Plant Systems Biology, JBEI

Nancy Washtongel-state and solid-state NMR chemical analysis of cell walls and metabolism, EMSL

 Mary S. Lipton, Carbon isotope methods in mass spectrometry and plant metabolism, EMSL

Cristina Castanhasenior research associate, LBNL



Eoin Brodie, Deputy Directory of CESD, Environmental and Biological Systems Sciences and Microbes-to-Biomes, LBNL

Henrik Vibe Scheller, Vice President for Feedstocks and Director of Cell Wall Biology and Engineering, JBEI

 Aymerick Eudes, Deputy Director of Cell Wall Biology and Engineering, JBEI 

Nate McDowell, non-structural carbohydrates and plant response to drought PNNL/EMSL

Wellington Muchero, Quantitative geneticist, Poplar genome wide associate study, ORNL

Alex Guenther, Atmosphere Integrated Research, UCI

Breeanna Urbanowicz, University of Georgia, UGA











Polysaccharides are major components of plant cell walls that can be converted into fuels by microbial fermentation, making plant biomass an important bioenergy resource. However, a substantial fraction of plant cell wall polysaccharides are chemically modified with methyl and acetyl groups that can reduce fermentation yields. Although little is known about the biochemical and physiological functions of those cell wall modifications in trees, recent evidence in Arabidopsis suggests that they are critical for proper development and functioning of xylem vessels and leaf stomata. While generally considered a waste product of cell wall physiochemical changes, we recently demonstrated that plant-atmosphere emissions of the volatile intermediates methanol and acetic acid are tightly associated with tree growth, stress, and senescence processes and can be both emitted to the atmosphere via stomata and integrated into central C1 and C2 plant metabolism. However, methanol and acetic acid are not captured by traditional metabolomics analysis, representing an important gap in our knowledge of cell wall metabolism and its interactions with the environment. To address these knowledge gaps, a DOE BER early career research project (ECRP) was recently funded entitled, “O-Acetylation and methylation engineering of plant cell walls for enhanced biofuel production”. This 5-year project started Nov 1st, 2018 will study the metabolism of those cell wall modifications and volatile intermediates as well as their role in central physiological processes in the emerging biofuel tree species California poplar (Populus trichocarpa) using field settings and controlled environmental conditions.



PECTIN Publications

  1. Dewhirst R, Mortimer J, Jardine K (2020) Do cell wall esters facilitate forest response to climate?  Trends in Plant Science. https:/
  2. Dewhirst R, Afseth C, Castanha C, Mortimer J, and Jardine K (2020) Cell wall O-acetyl and methyl esterification patterns of leaves reflected in atmospheric emission signatures of acetic acid and methanol, PLoS ONE 15(5), e0227591. 
  3. Dewhirst R, Jardine KWashton N, Young R, Mortimer J, Urbanowicz B, Barnes W, and Handakumbura P (2020) Effects of soil water methanol and growth temperature on poplar leaf physiology (in prep).  















Relevant books and papers (published)