Résumé : Lignin is a polymeric constituent of the cell wall that needs to be removed during the paper making process. Bispecific caffeic acid/5-hydroxyferulic acid O-methyltransferase (COMT) catalyses the O-methylation of caffeic acid and 5-hydroxyferulic acid to ferulic acid and sinapic acid, respectively. These compounds are intermediates in the biosynthesis of the lignin precursors. Therefore, COMTs are potential target enzymes for reducing the amount, or modifying the composition, of lignin in plants. Different antisense and sense constructs have been expressed of a gene encoding a COMT from poplar (Populus trichocarpa × P. deltoides) in a P. tremula × P. alba clone under the control of the cauliflower mosaic virus 35S promoter. From all analysed transformants, four lines transformed with an antisense construct had a reduced COMT activity. Two showed a 50% reduction of COMT activity, which altered only slightly the monomeric composition. In the two other transformants, the COMT activity was reduced by 95%. In the latter case, the syringyl/ guaiacyl ratio (S/G) was reduced by sixfold (due to a decrease of S and an increase of G), as analysed by thioacidolysis. A new component of lignin, the 5-hydroxyguaiacyl residue, was detected among the thioacidolysis products. Moreover, in contrast to the white/yellow colour of wild-type wood, the xylem of the transgenic lines with a 95% reduction of COMT activity was pale rose. A similar phenotype was observed in brown-midrib mutants of maize and sorghum, known for their altered lignification. Although the lignin composition was consistently modified, the lignin content of the transgenic poplars was similar to that of the controls.