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

sis takes place in the cell membrane. The enzyme complex responsible for cellulose synthesis consists of three different CesA (cellulose synthase) proteins which supposedly link the individual sugar molecules with each other and channel them out of the cell. The CesA proteins, which are involved in the synthesis of both primary and secondary cell walls, are related to each other but also differ in certain aspects. In addition to the CesAs, many other enzymes are believed to be associated with the synthesis or export of cellulose. Up to now, the research on cellulose synthesis focused, in particular, on Arabidopsis, the model organism favoured by biologists. Due to its short lifecycle and biological simplicity, Arabidopsis is extremely useful for research, but lacks economic potential. Persson and his colleagues would therefore like to apply the knowledge gained from the research on this plant to other more economically important plant species.

The aim of their research is to identify genes in important crops, such as barley, rice and wheat, and in poplar and soya beans that have the same function as already well-characterised genes found in Arabidopsis. With the help of a technique called co-expression analysis, they investigated which gene families become active at the same time and in the same place as the CesA genes and therefore are probably also involved in cellulose synthesis. "Genes that are expressed in cells at the same time probably also work in the same process," says Persson, explaining the approach adopted by his research group. In addition, this method also enables the scientists to weed out any false-positives, as genes that can only be connected with the CesA genes in Arabidopsis and not in any other species are presumably not as essential for cellulose synthesis as was previously believed.

The glycosyltransferases are a super-family of genes that can be found in almost all co-expression networks. These are enzymes that transfer a
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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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