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Open Access Research article

Fibres from flax overproducing β-1,3-glucanase show increased accumulation of pectin and phenolics and thus higher antioxidant capacity

Wioleta Wojtasik1, Anna Kulma1*, Lucyna Dymińska2, Jerzy Hanuza23, Jacek Żebrowski4 and Jan Szopa15

Author Affiliations

1 Faculty of Biotechnology, University of Wrocław, Przybyszewskiego 63/77, 51-148, Wrocław, Poland

2 Department of Bioorganic Chemistry, Institute of Chemistry and Food Technology, Faculty of Economics and Engineering, University of Economics, Komandorska 118/120, 50-345, Wrocław, Poland

3 Institute of Low Temperatures and Structure Research, Polish Academy of Sciences, Okolna 2, 50-422, Wrocław, Poland

4 Faculty of Biotechnology, Centre of Applied Biotechnology and Basic Sciences, Rzeszów University, Rzeszów, Poland

5 Linum Fundation, Stabłowicka 149-147, 54-066 Wroclaw, Poland

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BMC Biotechnology 2013, 13:10  doi:10.1186/1472-6750-13-10

Published: 9 February 2013



Recently, in order to improve the resistance of flax plants to pathogen infection, transgenic flax that overproduces β-1,3-glucanase was created. β-1,3-glucanase is a PR protein that hydrolyses the β-glucans, which are a major component of the cell wall in many groups of fungi. For this study, we used fourth-generation field-cultivated plants of the Fusarium -resistant transgenic line B14 to evaluate how overexpression of the β-1,3-glucanase gene influences the quantity, quality and composition of flax fibres, which are the main product obtained from flax straw.


Overproduction of β-1,3-glucanase did not affect the quantity of the fibre obtained from the flax straw and did not significantly alter the essential mechanical characteristics of the retted fibres. However, changes in the contents of the major components of the cell wall (cellulose, hemicellulose, pectin and lignin) were revealed. Overexpression of the β-1,3-glucanase gene resulted in higher cellulose, hemicellulose and pectin contents and a lower lignin content in the fibres. Increases in the uronic acid content in particular fractions (with the exception of the 1 M KOH-soluble fraction of hemicelluloses) and changes in the sugar composition of the cell wall were detected in the fibres of the transgenic flax when compared to the contents for the control plants. The callose content was lower in the fibres of the transgenic flax. Additionally, the analysis of phenolic compound contents in five fractions of the cell wall revealed important changes, which were reflected in the antioxidant potential of these fractions.


Overexpression of the β-1,3-glucanase gene has a significant influence on the biochemical composition of flax fibres. The constitutive overproduction of β-1,3-glucanase causes a decrease in the callose content, and the resulting excess glucose serves as a substrate for the production of other polysaccharides. The monosaccharide excess redirects the phenolic compounds to bind with polysaccharides instead of to partake in lignin synthesis. The mechanical properties of the transgenic fibres are strengthened by their improved biochemical composition, and the increased antioxidant potential of the fibres supports the potential use of transgenic flax fibres for biomedical applications.

Biopolymers; Fibres; Flax; Linum usitatissimum