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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2022

Understanding the Modus Operandi of Class II KNOX Transcription Factors in Secondary Cell Wall Biosynthesis

Nookaraju, Akula; Pandey, Shashank K.; Ahlawat, Yogesh K.; Joshi, Chandrashekhar P.


Lignocellulosic biomass from the secondary cell walls of plants has a veritable potential to provide some of the most appropriate raw materials for producing second-generation biofuels. Therefore, we must first understand how plants synthesize these complex secondary cell walls that consist of cellulose, hemicellulose, and lignin in order to deconstruct them later on into simple sugars to produce bioethanol via fermentation. Knotted-like homeobox (KNOX) genes encode homeodomain-containing transcription factors (TFs) that modulate various important developmental processes in plants. While Class I KNOX TF genes are mainly expressed in the shoot apical meristems of both monocot and eudicot plants and are involved in meristem maintenance and/or formation, Class II KNOX TF genes exhibit diverse expression patterns and their precise functions have mostly remained unknown, until recently. The expression patterns of Class II KNOX TF genes in Arabidopsis, namely KNAT3, KNAT4, KNAT5, and KNAT7, suggest that TFs encoded by at least some of these genes, such as KNAT7 and KNAT3, may play a significant role in secondary cell wall formation. Specifically, the expression of the KNAT7 gene is regulated by upstream TFs, such as SND1 and MYB46, while KNAT7 interacts with other cell wall proteins, such as KNAT3, MYB75, OFPs, and BLHs, to regulate secondary cell wall formation. Moreover, KNAT7 directly regulates the expression of some xylan synthesis genes. In this review, we summarize the current mechanistic understanding of the roles of Class II KNOX TFs in secondary cell wall formation. Recent success with the genetic manipulation of Class II KNOX TFs suggests that this may be one of the biotechnological strategies to improve plant feedstocks for bioethanol production.


bioethanol; KNOX II transcription factors; saccharification; secondary cell walls; xylan; xylem and fiber development

Published in

2022, volume: 11, number: 4, article number: 493
Publisher: MDPI

Authors' information

Nookaraju, Akula
Michigan Technological University
Pandey, Shashank K. (Pandey, Shashank)
Michigan Technological University
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Forest Genetics and Plant Physiology
Ahlawat, Yogesh K.
Michigan Technological University
Ahlawat, Yogesh K.
University of Florida
Joshi, Chandrashekhar P.
Michigan Technological University

UKÄ Subject classification

Plant Biotechnology

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