ANALYSIS OF BIOMASS COMPOSITION IN A SORGHUM DIVERSITY PANEL
Plant biomass is an abundant source of renewable energy, but the efficiency of its conversion into liquid fuels is low. One reason for this inefficiency is the recalcitrance of biomass to extraction and saccharification of cell wall polysaccharides. This recalcitrance is due to the complex and rigid structure of the plant cell wall. A better understanding of the genes effecting cell wall composition in bioenergy crops could improve feedstock quality and increase conversion efficiency. To identify genetic loci associated with biomass quality traits, we utilized genome-wide association studies (GWAS) in an 840-line Sorghum diversity panel. We identified several QTL from these GWAS including some for lignin composition and saccharification. Linkage disequilibrium (LD) analysis suggested that multiple polymorphisms are driving the association of SNPs within these QTL. Sequencing and further analysis led to the identification of a SNP within the coding region of a gene encoding phenylalanine ammonia-lyase (PAL) that creates a premature stop codon and co-segregates with an increase in the ratio of syringyl (S) to guaiacyl (G) lignin. A comparison of net PAL activity between lines with and without the mutation revealed that this mutation results in decreased PAL activity.