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Estimation of Crystalline Cellulose Content of Plant Biomass using the Updegraff Method

Published: May 15th, 2021



1Department of Plant and Soil Science, Texas Tech University, 2Fiber and Biopolymer Research Institute (FBRI), Department of Plant and Soil Science, Texas Tech University

The Updegraff method is the most widely used method for the cellulose estimation. The main purpose of this demonstration is to provide a detailed Updegraff protocol for estimation of cellulose content in plant biomass samples.

Cellulose is the most abundant polymer on Earth generated by photosynthesis and the main load-bearing component of cell walls. The cell wall plays a significant role in plant growth and development by providing strength, rigidity, rate and direction of cell growth, cell shape maintenance, and protection from biotic and abiotic stressors. The cell wall is primarily composed of cellulose, lignin, hemicellulose and pectin. Recently plant cell walls have been targeted for the second-generation biofuel and bioenergy production. Specifically, the cellulose component of the plant cell wall is used for the production of cellulosic ethanol. Estimation of cellulose content of biomass is critical for fundamental and applied cell wall research. The Updegraff method is simple, robust, and the most widely used method for the estimation of crystalline cellulose content of plant biomass. The alcohol insoluble crude cell wall fraction upon treatment with Updegraff reagent eliminates the hemicellulose and lignin fractions. Later, the Updegraff reagent resistant cellulose fraction is subjected to sulfuric acid treatment to hydrolyze the cellulose homopolymer into monomeric glucose units. A regression line is developed using various concentrations of glucose and used to estimate the amount of the glucose released upon cellulose hydrolysis in the experimental samples. Finally, the cellulose content is estimated based on the amount of glucose monomers by colorimetric anthrone assay.

Cellulose is the primary load-bearing component of cell walls, which is present in both primary and secondary cell walls. The cell wall is an extracellular matrix that surrounds plant cells and is primarily composed of cellulose, lignin, hemicellulose, pectin, and matrix proteins. Approximately one third of plants biomass is cellulose1 and it plays significant roles in plant growth and development by providing strength, rigidity, rate and direction of cell growth, cell shape maintenance, and protection from biotic and abiotic stressors. Cotton fiber contains 95% cellulose2 content, while trees contain 40% to 50% of cellu....

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1. Experimental preparation

  1. Grind dried plant material into a fine powder.
  2. Protein Solubilization Buffer (PSB): Prepare stock solutions of 1 M Tris (pH 8.8), 0.5 M ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid (EDTA) (pH 8.0) and autoclave them. Make fresh PSB buffer from these stock solutions with final concentrations of 50 mM Tris, 0.5 mM EDTA and 10% sodium dodecyl sulfate (SDS) in sterile water.
  3. Prepare 100 mL of 70% ethanol (v/v): 70 mL of 100% ethanol and 30 mL of sterile water.
  4. Prepare .......

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Cotton plants grown in the green house were selected for this study. Two different experimental lines of cotton were selected for comparative analysis of cellulose content. For each experimental line, the root tissue was collected from three biological replicates. A total of 500 mg of tissue was homogenized and 20 mg of it was used for crude cell wall extraction. Later, 5 mg of crude cell wall extract was used for Updegraff reagent treatment to remove hemicellulose and lignin from cellulose. The purified cellulose was hy.......

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Cotton fibers are natural fibers produced from the cottonseed. Cotton fiber is a single cell with ~95% cellulose content2 with high crystalline cellulose content with extensive applications in textile industry31. As, cotton fiber contains ~95% cellulose, we have used cotton root tissues for demonstration of the estimation of crystalline cellulose content. Cotton root tissues are moderately rich in crystalline cellulose content and represents a commonly available plant bioma.......

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We thank the Department of Plant & Soil Science and Cotton Inc. for their partial support of this study.


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Name Company Catalog Number Comments
Acetone Fisher Chemical A18-500 Used in the protocol
Anthrone Sigma Aldrich 90-44-8 For colorimetric assay
Centrifuge Eppendorf 5424 For centrifugation
Chloroform Mallinckrodt 67-66-3 Used in the protocol
Ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid (EDTA) Sigma Aldrich 6381-92-6 Used in the protocol
Ethanol Millipore Sigma EM-EX0276-4S Used in the protocol
Filter paper Whatman 1004-090 Positive control
Glacial acetic acid Sigma SKU A6283 Used in the protocol
Heat block/ ThermoMixer F1.5 Eppendorf 13527550 For controlled temperatures
Incubator Fisherbrand 150152633 Used for drying plant sample
Measuring Scale Mettler Toledo 30243386 For specific quantities
Methanol 100 % Fisher Chemical A412-500 Used in the protocol
Microplate (96 well) Evergreen Scientific 222-8030-01F For anthrone assay
Nitric acid Sigma Aldrich 695041 Used in the protocol
Polypropylene Microvials (2 mL) / screw capped tubes BioSpec Products 10831 For high temperatures
Spectrophotometer(Multimode Detector) Beckmancoulter DTX880 1000814 For measuring absorbances
Spex SamplePrep 6870 Freezer / Mill Spex Sample Prep 68-701-15 For grinding plant tissues into fine powder
Sulphuric acid J.T.Baker 02-004-382 Used in the protocol
Sodium dodecyl sulfate (SDS) Sigma Aldrich 151-21-3 Used in the PSB buffer
Tubes (2 mL) Fisher Scientific 05-408-138 Used in the protocol
Tris Hydrochloride Sigma Aldrich  1185-53-1 Used in the PSB buffer
Ultrapure distilled water Invitrogen 10977 Used in the protocol
Vacuum dryer (vacufuge plus) Eppendorf 22820001 For drying samples
Vortex mixer Fisherbrand 14-955-151 For mixing
Waterbath Thermoscientific TSGP02PM05 For temperature controlled conditions at specific steps
Weighing Paper Fisher Scientific 09-898-12A Used in the protocol

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