Field and pulping performances of transgenic trees with altered lignification

Gilles Pilate, Emma Guiney, Karen Holt, Michel Petit-Conil, Catherine Lapierre, Jean-Charles Leplé, Brigitte Pollet, Isabelle Mila, Elizabeth A Webster, Håkan G Marstorp, David W Hopkins, Lise Jouanin, Wout Boerjan, Wolfgang Schuch, Daniel Cornu, Claire Halpin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

333 Citations (Scopus)


The agronomic and pulping performance of transgenic trees with altered lignin has been evaluated in duplicated, long-term field trials. Poplars expressing cinnamyl alcohol dehydrogenase (CAD) or caffeate/5-hydroxy-ferulate O-methyltransferase (COMT) antisense transgenes were grown for four years at two sites, in France and England. The trees remained healthy throughout the trial. Growth indicators and interactions with insects were normal. No changes in soil microbial communities were detected beneath the transgenic trees. The expected modifications to lignin were maintained in the transgenics over four years, at both sites. Kraft pulping of tree trunks showed that the reduced-CAD lines had improved characteristics, allowing easier delignification, using smaller amounts of chemicals, while yielding more high-quality pulp. This work highlights the potential of engineering wood quality for more environmentally benign papermaking without interfering with tree growth or fitness.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)607-612
Number of pages6
JournalNature Biotechnology
Issue number6
Publication statusPrint publication - Jun 2002
Externally publishedYes


  • Alcohol oxidoreductases
  • Antisense elements
  • Ecosystem
  • Environmental pollution
  • France
  • Gene expression
  • Industrial waste
  • Lignin
  • Methyltransferases
  • Paper
  • Soil microbiology
  • Transgenes
  • United Kingdom
  • Wood


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