Coupling and reactions of 5- hydroxyconiferyl alcohol in lignin formation
The catechol alcohols, caffeyl and 5-hydroxyconiferyl alcohol, may be incorporated into lignin either naturally or through genetic manipulation. Due to the presence of o-OH groups, these compounds form benzodioxanes, a departure from the interunit connections found in lignins derived from the cinnamyl alcohols. In nature, lignins composed of caffeyl and 5- hydroxyconiferyl alcohol are linear homopolymers and, as such, may have properties that make them amenable for use in valueadded products, such as lignin-based carbon fibers. In the current work, results from density functional theory calculations for the reactions of 5-hydroxyconiferyl alcohol, taking stereochemistry into account, are reported. Dehydrogenation and quinone methide formation are found to be thermodynamically favored for 5-hydroxyconiferyl alcohol, over coniferyl alcohol. The comparative energetics of the rearomatization reactions suggest that the formation of the benzodioxane linkage is under kinetic control. Ring-opening reactions of the benzodioxane groups show that the bond dissociation enthalpy of the a-O cleavage reaction is lower than that of the ß-O reaction. The catechol lignins represent a novel form of the polymer that may offer new opportunities for bioproducts and genetic targets.