Skip to main content

Deconvoluting Structures of Component Plant Biopolymers Using Deuterium Labeled Brassica oleracea Stems

Publication Type
Journal Name
ACS Sustainable Chemistry & Engineering
Publication Date
Page Numbers
17238 to 17248

Several Brassica species are cultivated globally for the production of seed oils as food, lubricants, and increasingly biofuels. The stem and leaf residues of these herbaceous dicotyledonous crops constitute another feedstock for biofuels and other products. Plant cell walls are complex, multipolymeric structures that consist primarily of polysaccharides and lignin. Cellulose chains coalesce to form crystalline microfibrils while the amorphous biopolymers, hemicellulose, and lignin form a network structure and fill the interstitial space. Neutron scattering has been used for the structural study of the assembly and deconstruction of the plant cell walls. However, similar neutron sensitivity of the different amorphous biopolymers has made structural association to individual component biopolymers nontrivial and ambiguous. To improve the association of structural features to specific biopolymer components, partial deuteration of the plant cell wall can be employed to increase the difference in the neutron scattering length density between amorphous carbohydrate and lignin plant polymers. Vegetative stems from partially deuterated Brassica oleracea acephala (kale) plants were obtained commercially, and the plant cell wall structures were studied by contrast-variation small-angle neutron scattering (CV-SANS) and Fourier-transform infrared spectroscopy (FTIR). FTIR results indicated that deuterium substitution for hydrogen in the carbohydrates was higher than that in lignin. By combining CV-SANS and FTIR results, the neutron scattering length density (nSLD) of the polysaccharides and lignin was determined to match nSLD of 65%:35% and 48%:52% D2O/H2O solvent mixtures, respectively. These nSLD values were higher than the nSLD values of polysaccharides and lignin for H2O grown biopolymers. The nSLD increase correlates to replacing about 42.5% of hydrogens present as both C–H and O–H groups in cellulose with deuterium atoms, while only 21% for lignin. This study lays the foundation to use partially deuterated plants to deconvolute structural features of the different component biopolymers, especially cellulose, hemicellulose, and lignin, of the plant cell wall without introducing unintended structural modifications due to the pretreatment extraction processes.