The phenylpropanoid pathway is responsible for the synthesis of lignin as well as a large number of compounds of fundamental importance for the biology of plants. Over the years, important knowledge has accumulated on how dicotyledoneous plants control various branches of phenylpropanoid accumulation, but comparable information on the grasses is lagging significantly behind. In addition to playing fundamental roles in biotic and abiotic interactions, phenylpropanoids in the grasses play a very important function in the reinforcement of cell wall components. Understanding how phenylpropanoid metabolism is controlled in the grasses has been complicated by recent genome duplications, the difficulties in making transgenic plants and the absence of mutants in many genes. Recent studies in a particular subgroup of R2R3-MYB transcription factors suggest that they might play a central role in regulating a small set of phenylpropanoid genes, opening the door for the identification of other related regulators, and perhaps also finding out which combinations of biosynthesis genes function in particular cell types for the formation of specific compounds. This information will be essential for the rational metabolic engineering of this pathway, either to increase biomass or decrease phenolic accumulation for better accessibility of polysaccharides for forage quality and biofuel production. © 2012 Elsevier Ireland Ltd.
- Cell wall polysaccharides