The discovery of xyloglucan and its ability to bind tightly to cellulose has dominated our thinking about primary cell wall structure and its connection to the mechanism of cell enlargement for 40 years. Gene discovery has advanced our understanding of the synthesis of xyloglucan in the past decade, and at the same time new and unexpected results indicate that xyloglucan €s role in wall structure and wall extensibility is more subtle than commonly believed. Genetic deletion of xyloglucan synthesis does not greatly disable cell wall functions. Nuclear magnetic resonance studies indicate that pectins, rather than xyloglucans, make the majority of contacts with cellulose surfaces. Xyloglucan binding may be selective for specific (hydrophobic) surfaces on the cellulose microfibril, whose structure is more complex than is commonly portrayed in cell wall cartoons. Biomechanical assessments of endoglucanase actions challenge the concept of xyloglucan tethering. The mechanically important xyloglucan is restricted to a minor component that appears to be closely intertwined with cellulose at limited sites (€biomechanical hotspots €) of direct microfibril contact; these may be the selective sites of cell wall loosening by expansins. These discoveries indicate that wall extensibility is less a matter of bulk viscoelasticity of the matrix polymers and more a matter of selective control of slippage and separation of microfibrils at specific and limited sites in the wall.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Plant Science
- Cell Biology