Biochemical Control Aspects in Lignin Polymerization

Detta är en avhandling från Stockholm : KTH

Sammanfattning: Lignins are produced by all vascular plants and they represent one of the most abundant groups of biopolymers in nature. Lignin chemistry research, which has been of great importance for the progress of pulping technologies, has been plagued by the difficulties of its isolation and characterization. The pioneering work of Karl Freudenberg in the 1950’s with synthetic models of lignin paved the way for a detailed structural characterization of many lignin substructures. His work with the so-called “synthetic lignins” or dehydrogenative polymers (DHP) also laid a foundation for understanding how different lignin substructures are formed, reinforcing the already existing theory of lignin polymerization. However, subsequent structural characterizations of DHPs and lignins have repeatedly put this theory to the test. In the past decade, even a new radically different hypothesis for lignin polymerization has emerged and is sustained by a few researchers in the field.In this work, DHPs were produced from phenolic monomers, mostly coniferyl alcohol, a common lignin monomer, in a variety of reaction conditions. This was done in order to establish how different chemical factors, potentially active in the plant cell wall during lignin polymerization, influence the polymer’s final properties. In the presence of nicotine amide adenine dinucleotide (NADH), a quinone methide model, which is an intermediate formed during lignin polymerization, was effectively reduced. An equivalent reduced structure was produced during DHP synthesis in the presence of NADH. These studies showed that reduction might take place during oxidative polymerization, possibly explaining how reduced lignin structures are formed in the plant cell wall. Another reductive agent, ascorbic acid, was also tested during synthesis of DHPs. It displayed a totally different effect than NADH, probably due to its anti-oxidant nature, by altering the final amounts of certain inter-unit substructures, in favour of ?-O-4? structures, which are so prominent in natural lignins. Furthermore, the new suggested model for lignin polymerization, stating that lignin itself possesses the ability for template replication, was tested by synthesizing DHPs in the presence of a simple ?-?? substructure model. The DHPs produced the same amounts of ?-?? substructures as a control synthesis without the model structure, indicating that no replication had occurred. Finally, the role of the monolignol ?-carbon oxidation state in lignin polymerization, was studied. Hypothetically, lignin- like polymers could be produced by the plant, using monolignol biosynthetic precursors which exhibit ?-carbonyl groups instead of an alcohol group, like the common lignin monomer. Synthetic lignins produced with ferulic acid, coniferaldehyde and the normal monolignol, coniferyl alcohol, displayed important differences in chemical and physical properties. Both the ferulic acid and coniferaldehyde polymers exhibited almost no saturated inter-unit substructures and very few cyclic structures, both of which are very common in coniferyl alcohol dehydrogenative polymers and natural lignins. This could have significant implications for the formation of an important type of lignin carbohydrate complexes (LCC). Also the hydrophobicity of the alcohol-type polymer was lower than the other two. The biological implications of all these findings are discussed and some suggestions are made to explain how all these factors might affect lignin polymerization and structure in nature.