Despite the fact that the plant cell wall forms one of the largest biomasses on Earth and is an important component of food for the world's population, many fundamental aspects of its structure and function, and the
enzymes responsible for its synthesis are still largely a mystery. In addition, the complex polysaccharides produced by plants are utilized around the globe
in countless commercial and industrial processes from the textile industry, agriculture, building materials, paper products and more. Our research involves using biochemical and microbiological techniques in conjunction with mass spectrometry based technologies to study the structure, synthesis, and trafficking pathways of the wall of plant cells.
We are part of the University of Cambridge Bioenergy Initiative and were one of the six research hubs in the BBSRC Sustainable Bioenergy Centre. This virtual centre was composed of academic and industrial partners,
based at each of the Universities of Cambridge, Dundee, Nottingham and York and Rothamsted Research.
Our contribution is the BSBEC Cell Wall Sugars Programme – developing strategies to improve plants and
enzymes for increased sugar release from biomass. The programme aims to better understand how sugars are locked into plant cell walls. By doing this we can select the right plants and the right enzymes to release the maximum amount of sugars for conversion to biofuels. Our associated programme members are Newcastle University and Novozymes.