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On the propensity of lignin to associate: A size exclusion chromatography study with lignin derivatives isolated from different plant species

Guerra, A., Gaspar, A.R., Contreras, S., Lucia, L.A., Crestini, C., Argyropoulos, D.S.
Phytochemistry 2007 v.68 no.20 pp. 2570-2583
cell walls, Eucalyptus globulus, Pseudotsuga menziesii, softwood, wheat straw, Picea abies, chemical structure, gel chromatography, Triticum aestivum, Pinus palustris, lignin, Abies concolor, Sequoia sempervirens
Despite evidence that lignin associates under both aqueous and organic media, the magnitude and nature of the underlying driving forces are still a matter of discussion. The present paper addresses this issue by examining both solution properties and size exclusion behaviour of lignins isolated from five different species of softwoods, as well as from the angiosperms Eucalyptus globulus and wheat straw. This investigation has used the recently described protocol for isolating enzymatic mild acidolysis lignin (EMAL), which offers lignin samples highly representative of the overall lignin present in the wood cell wall. The molecular weight distributions of these EMALs were found to be dependent upon the wood species from which they were isolated and upon the incubation conditions used prior to size exclusion chromatography. While the chromatograms of EMALs isolated from softwoods displayed a bimodal behaviour, the elution profiles of EMAL from E. globulus and straw were nearly unimodal. A marked tendency to dissociate prevailed under incubation at room temperature for all examined species with the exception of the straw lignin preparation; furthermore, lignin solutions incubated at 4 °C showed an associative behaviour manifested by an increase in the weight and number average molecular weights for some species. The extent of such association/dissociation, as well as the time needed for the process to reach completion, was also found to depend upon the wood species, i.e. lignins from softwoods were found to associate/dissociate to a greater extent than lignins from E. globulus and straw. The origin of such effects within the lignin structure is also discussed.