Matrix solubilization and cell wall weakening byβ-expansin (group-1 allergen) from maize pollen

Akira Tabuchi, Lian Chao Li, Daniel J. Cosgrove

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57 Scopus citations


Beta-expansins accumulate to high levels in grass pollen, a feature apparently unique to grasses. These proteins, which are major human allergens, facilitate pollen tube penetration of the maize stigma and style (the silk). Here we report that treatment of maize silk cell walls with purifiedβ- expansin from maize pollen led to solubilization of wall matrix polysaccharides, dominated by feruloyated highly substituted glucuronoarabinoxylan (60%) and homogalacturonan (35%). Such action was selective for cell walls of grasses, and indicated a target preferentially found in grass cell walls, probably the highly substituted glucuronoarabinoxylan. Several tests for lytic activities byβ-expansin were negative and polysaccharide solubilization had weak temperature dependence, which indicated a non-enzymatic process. Concomitant with matrix solubilization,β-expansin treatment induced creep, reduced the breaking force and increased the plastic compliance of wall specimens. From comparisons of the pH dependencies of these processes, we conclude that matrix solubilization was linked closely to changes in wall plasticity and breaking force, but not so closely coupled to cell wall creep. Because matrix solubilization and increased wall plasticity have not been found with other expansins, we infer that these novel activities are linked to the specialized role of grass pollenβ-expansins in promotion of penetration of the pollen tube through the stigma and style, most likely by weakening the middle lamella.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)546-559
Number of pages14
JournalPlant Journal
Issue number3
StatePublished - Nov 2011

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Genetics
  • Plant Science
  • Cell Biology


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