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A grass-specific cellulose-xylan interaction dominates in sorghum secondary cell walls.


Sorghum (Sorghum bicolor L. Moench) is a promising source of lignocellulosic biomass for the production of renewable fuels and chemicals, as well as for forage. Understanding secondary cell wall architecture is key to understanding recalcitrance i.e. identifying features which prevent the efficient conversion of complex biomass to simple carbon units. Here, we use multi-dimensional magic angle spinning solid-state NMR to characterize the sorghum secondary cell wall. We show that xylan is mainly in a three-fold screw conformation due to dense arabinosyl substitutions, with close proximity to cellulose. We also show that sorghum secondary cell walls present a high ratio of amorphous to crystalline cellulose as compared to dicots. We propose a model of sorghum cell wall architecture which is dominated by interactions between three-fold screw xylan and amorphous cellulose. This work will aid the design of low-recalcitrance biomass crops, a requirement for a sustainable bioeconomy.

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