Modern Plant Enzyme Partners with Surprisingly Ancient Protein

Study reveals that protein responsible for building a key component of modern plant cell walls first emerged in ancient species

Scientists from the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Brookhaven National Laboratory have discovered that a protein responsible for the synthesis of a key plant material evolved much earlier than suspected. This new research explored the origin and evolution of the biochemical machinery that builds lignin, a structural component of plant cell walls with significant impacts on the clean energy industry. When the first land plants emerged from aquatic environments, they needed to adapt in order to survive. Chang-Jun Liu, PhD, a senior scientist in Brookhaven’s Biology Department, said, “The emergence of lignin, which provides structural support for the plants, was a key evolutionary event that enabled plant survival in the new terrestrial environment.”

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