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Estimation of Plant Biomass Lignin Content using Thioglycolic Acid (TGA)

Published: July 24th, 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

Here, we present a modified TGA method for estimation of lignin content in herbaceous plant biomass. This method estimates the lignin content by forming specific thioether bonds with lignin and presents an advantage over the Klason method, as it requires a relatively small sample for lignin content estimation.

Lignin is a natural polymer that is the second most abundant polymer on Earth after cellulose. Lignin is mainly deposited in plant secondary cell walls and is an aromatic heteropolymer primarily composed of three monolignols with significant industrial importance. Lignin plays an important role in plant growth and development, protects from biotic and abiotic stresses, and in the quality of animal fodder, the wood, and industrial lignin products. Accurate estimation of lignin content is essential for both fundamental understanding of the lignin biosynthesis and industrial applications of biomass. The thioglycolic acid (TGA) method is a highly reliable method of estimating the total lignin content in the plant biomass. This method estimates the lignin content by forming thioethers with the benzyl alcohol groups of lignin, which are soluble in alkaline conditions and insoluble in acidic conditions. The total lignin content is estimated using a standard curve generated from commercial bamboo lignin.

Lignin is one of the vital load-bearing components of plant cell walls and the second most abundant polymer on Earth1. Chemically, lignin is a crosslinked heteropolymer made up of high molecular weight complex phenolic compounds that form a natural renewable source of aromatic polymers and synthesis of biomaterials2,3. This natural polymer plays significant roles in plant growth, development, survival, mechanical support, cell wall rigidity, water transport, mineral transport, lodging resistance, tissue and organ development, deposition of energy, and protection from biotic and abiotic ....

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1. Preparation of plant samples

  1. Collect two-month-old cotton plants from the greenhouse (Figure 1A).
  2. Flip plant pots gently to separate soil and roots with intact lateral roots by loosening the soil around the plant (Figure 1B).
  3. Wash the collected plants thoroughly in trays filled with water to remove all the dirt (for root samples) (Figure 1C).
  4. Use paper towels to dry separated root, stem, .......

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Two different cotton experimental lines were compared for differences in their lignin contents in different tissues. The extracted lignin content of each sample was measured at 280 nm and recorded its respective absorbance values. The average absorbance values of each biological replicate were compared against the regression line of the lignin standard curve (Table 2, Figure 3C). The regression line, y = mx + c, is used to calculate the unknown lignin content of the extracte.......

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Lignin plays a significant role in plant growth and development and recently has been extensively studied for biofuel, bioenergy and bioproduct applications. Lignin is rich in aromatic compounds that are stored in all vascular plant secondary cell walls. It has several industrial applications such as wood panel products, bio dispersants, flocculants, polyurethane foams and in resins of circuit boards29,30,31. Most of the lignin .......

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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
BioSpectrophotometer kinetic Eppendorf kinetic 6136000010 For measuring absorbance at 280 nm
Centrifuge Eppendorf 5424 For centrifuging  samples
Commercial bamboo lignin Aldrich 1002171289 Used in the preparation of the standard curve
Distilled water Fischer Scientific 16690382 Used in the protocol
Falcon tubes VWR 734-0448 Containers for solutions
Freezer mill Spex Sample Prep 68-701-15 For fine grinding of plant tissue samples
Heat block/ Thermal mixer Eppendorf 13527550 For temperature controlled steps during lignin extraction
Hotplate stirrer Walter WP1007-HS Used for preparation of solutions
Hydrochloric acid (HCL) Sigma 221677 Used in the protocol
Incubator Fisherbrand 150152633 For thorough drying of plant tissue samples
Measuring scale Mettler toledo 30243386 For measuring plant tissue weight, standards and microfuge tubes
Methanol (100 %) Fischer Scientific 67-56-1 Used in the protocol
Microfuge tubes (2 mL) Microcentrifuge Z628034-500EA Containers for extraction of lignin
Plant biomass gerinder Hanchen Amazon Used for crushing dried samples
pH meter Fisher Scientific AE150 Measuring pH for solutions prepared for lignin extraction
Temperature controlled incubator/oven Fisher Scientific 15-015-2633 Used in the protocol
Thioglycolic acid (TGA) Sigma Aldrich 68-11-1 Used in the protocol
Vacuum dryer Eppendorf 22820001 Used for drying samples
Vortex mixer Eppendorf 3340001 For proper mixing of samples

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