Molecular insights into the complex mechanics of plant epidermal cell walls

Yao Zhang, Jingyi Yu, Xuan Wang, Daniel M. Durachko, Sulin Zhang, Daniel J. Cosgrove

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

142 Scopus citations


Plants have evolved complex nanofibril-based cell walls to meet diverse biological and physical constraints. How strength and extensibility emerge from the nanoscale-to-mesoscale organization of growing cell walls has long been unresolved. We sought to clarify the mechanical roles of cellulose and matrix polysaccharides by developing a coarse-grained model based on polymer physics that recapitulates aspects of assembly and tensile mechanics of epidermal cell walls. Simple noncovalent binding interactions in the model generate bundled cellulose networks resembling that of primary cell walls and possessing stress-dependent elasticity, stiffening, and plasticity beyond a yield threshold. Plasticity originates from fibril-fibril sliding in aligned cellulose networks. This physical model provides quantitative insight into fundamental questions of plant mechanobiology and reveals design principles of biomaterials that combine stiffness with yielding and extensibility.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)607-711
Number of pages105
Issue number6543
StatePublished - May 14 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General


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