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Transgenic trees hold promise for pulp and paper industries

have faced questions of real-world properties, resistance to insects and diseases, and the possibility of unforeseen ecological impacts. "There is a need for more data concerning the environmental effects and field performance of transgenic trees," said Chiang, "but four-year field trials of such trees in France and the United Kingdom show that lignin-modified transgenic trees do not have detrimental or unusual ecological impacts in the areas tested."

In previous work, Chiang and his team had successfully reduced lignin in aspens by inhibiting the influence of a gene called 4CL. The current research modifies the expression of both 4CL and a second gene, CAld5H, in the trees. This dual-gene engineering alters the lignin structure, and produces the favorable characteristics of lower and more degradable lignin, higher cellulose and accelerated maturation of the aspens' xylem cells.

The research is described in the paper "Combinatorial modification of multiple lignin traits in trees through multigene co-transformation," published online by PNAS on March 31.

Chiang is co-director of the Department of Forestry's Forest Biotechnology Group in the College of Natural Resources at NC State. Headed by Chiang and Dr. Ron Sederoff, Edwin F. Conger and Distinguished University Professor of Forestry and a member of the National Academy of Sciences, the group is one of the world's leading research organizations studying the molecular genetics of forest trees. The Forest Biotechnology Group is a key part of NC State's research strength in genomics, an important new area of scientific research focused on identifying and mapping all the genes of living organisms. Its work is leading to a better understanding of the genetic basis of biological diversity, improved disease resistance in important tree species, and increased commercial forest productivity.

According to Dr. Bailian Li, associate professor of forestry at NC State, Dr. Chiang's results in this
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Contact: Dr. Vincent L. Chiang
vincent_chiang@ncsu.edu
919-513-0098
North Carolina State University
1-Apr-2003


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