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Enzymes for cell wall synthesis conserved across species barriers
Date:7/14/2011

This release is available in German.

Plants have neither supportive bone tissue nor muscles, and yet they can form rigid structures like stalks and even tree trunks. This is due to the fact that plant cells are enveloped by a stable cell wall. The main component of the plant cell wall is cellulose, which represents almost 50 percent of the total cell wall material and, at one billion tonnes per year, is the most frequently produced macromolecule in nature. Very little is known about the way in which cellulose is produced, and the knowledge that is available has mainly been obtained from the model plant thale cress (Arabidopsis thaliana) which, although easy to study, is of no economic significance. Staffan Persson and his research group at the Max Planck Institute of Molecular Plant Physiology have succeeded in showing that knowledge obtained in Arabidopsis can be applied to other plant species and even advanced.

Cell walls are referred to as primary or secondary according to their materials and characteristics. While the cell is still growing it is only surrounded by the elastic and flexible primary cell wall. When the cell is fully grown, certain types of cells, for example the water transporting vessels, form a rigid secondary cell wall. The most important component of both cell wall types is cellulose a long chain-shaped molecule which consists of several thousand monosaccharides that assemble themselves to form extremely tear-resistant bundles known as microfibrils. These cellulose microfibrils surround the plant cell like steel cables and give it shape and stability. Although cellulose cannot be digested by humans and animals, and is, therefore, of no nutritional value, it is an important industrial raw material. It is used, for example, in the paper industry, in construction and as a precursor for fuel.

Cellulose synthe
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Contact: Staffan Persson
persson@mpimp-golm.mpg.de
49-331-567-8149
Max-Planck-Gesellschaft
Source:Eurekalert  

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