Characterization of palo podrido, an natural process of delignification in wood

E. Agosin, R. A. Blanchette, H. Silva, C. Lapierre, K. R. Cease, R. E. Ibach, A. R. Abad, P. Muga

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Chemical and morphological changes of incipient to advanced stages of palo podrido, an extensively delignified wood, and other types of white rot decay found in the temperate forests of southern Chile were investigated. Palo podrido is a general term for white rot decay that is either selective or nonselective for the removal of lignin, whereas palo blanco describes the white decayed wood that has advanced stages of delignification. Selective delignification occurs mainly in trunks of Eucryphia cordifolia and Nothofagus dombeyi, which have the lowest lignin content and whose lignins have the largest amount of β-aryl ether bonds and the highest syringyl/guaiacyl ratio of all the native woods included in this study. A Ganoderma species was the main white rot fungus associated with the decay. The structural changes in lignin during the white rot degradation were examined by thioacidolysis, which revealed that the β-aryl ether-linked syringyl units were more specifically degraded than the guaiacyl ones, particularly in the case of selective delignification. Ultrastructural studies showed that the delignification process was diffuse throughout the cell wall. Lignin was first removed from the secondary wall nearest the lumen and then throughout the secondary wall toward the middle lamella. The middle lamella and cell corners were the last areas to be degraded. Black manganese deposits were found in some, but not all, selectively delignified samples. In advanced stages of delignification, almost pure cellulose could be found, although with a reduced degree of polymerization. Cellulolytic anzymes appeared to be responsible for depolymerization. A high brighthness and an easy refining capacity were found in an unbleached pulp made from selectively delignified N. dombeyi wood. Its low vicosity, however, resulted in poor resistance properties of the pulp. The last stage of degradation (i.e., decomposition of cellulose-rich secondary wall layers) resulted in a gelantinlike substance. Ultrastructural and chemical analyses of this substance showed the matrix to have no microfibrillar structure characteristic of woody cell walls but to still be rich in glucan.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)65-74
Number of pages10
JournalApplied and environmental microbiology
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1990


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