Utility Promoters for Biomass Feedstock Biotechnology



Genetic optimization of biomass is necessary to improve the rates and final yields of sugar release from woody biomass. Areas that would benefit from genetic optimization include growth rate, environmental stress tolerance, yields of easily fermentable polysaccharides, total lignin content, lowering biomass recalcitrance to fermentation, and wood density.


Successful application of biotechnology requires both gene discovery and a proper means for gene expression control. However, commercial use of biotechnology in crop improvement programs is severely limited by the lack of utility promoters that can drive gene expression in a tissue-specific or temporally controlled manner. Even though some inducible plant promoters exist, neither developing xylem cell-specific promoters nor developing xylem tissue-specific promoters have been identified. Thus, there is a need for promoters that are specific for expression in developing xylem cells and in developing xylem tissue.


Description of Technology


Michigan State University’s technology relates to utility promoters for tissue-specific control of plant genetic expression. The promoter sequences regulate specific expression of operably linked sequences in developing xylem cells and/or in developing xylem tissue. The promoters were identified based on their tissue-specific expression and have been demonstrated to drive gene expression in a tissue where biomass is produced and accumulated.


Key Benefits

  • Potential to enhance economic traits in plant via gene expression: The ability to change the phenotype of particular cell types, providing significant improvements in both quantity (biomass) and quality (wood density, lignin content, sugar content) of biomass feedstock products.
  • Potential reduction in production cost: Engineered feedstocks could be produced to the agriculture, biofuel, and biomass industries at a lower cost.
  • Specific and robust: The utility promoters have more specificity and can be applied to tissue of specific interest without affecting other plant tissues.
  • Applications
  • Biofuel industry: Much effort in the biomass industry is already directed at extraction of various biofuels, such as ethanol.
  • Forest products industry: This technology could increase valuable plant traits such as wood density, which could increase production of pulp, paper, and solid wood for building materials and furniture industries.


Patent Status


Patent Pending




Kyung-Hwan Han, Jae-Heung Ko


Tech ID




Learn more about the Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center (GLBRC) at MSU 


Patent Information:

For Information, Contact:

Thomas Herlache
Assistant Director
Michigan State University