Plant cell enlargement and the action of expansins

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Plant cells are caged within a distended polymeric network (the cell wall), which enlarges by a process of stress relaxation and slippage (creep) of the polysaccharides that make up the load-bearing network of the wall. Protein mediators of wall creep have recently been isolated and characterized. These proteins, called expansins, appear to disrupt the noncovalent adhesion of matrix polysaccharides to cellulose microfibrils, thereby permitting turgor-driven wall enlargement. Expansin activity is specifically expressed in the growing tissues of dicotyledons and monocotyledons. Sequence analysis of cDNAs indicates that expansins are novel proteins, without previously known functional motifs. Comparison of expansin cDNAs from cucumber, pea, Arabidopsis and rice shows that the proteins are highly conserved in size and amino acid sequence. Phylogenetic analysis of expansin sequences suggests that this multigene family diverged before the evolution of angiosperms. Speculation is presented about the role of this gene family in plant development and evolution.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)533-540
Number of pages8
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 1996

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)


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