Plant cell walls throughout evolution: towards a molecular understanding of their design principles

Article English OPEN
Sarkar, Purbasha (2009)
  • Publisher: eScholarship, University of California
  • Subject: Environmental Energy Technologies | 3D organization, chemical composition, deconstruction, evolution, electron microscopy, plant cell wall, spectroscopy.
    mesheuropmc: food and beverages

Throughout their life, plants typically remain in one location utilizing sunlight for the synthesis of carbohydrates, which serve as their sole source of energy as well as building blocks of a protective extracellular matrix, called the cell wall. During the course of evolution, plants have repeatedly adapted to their respective niche,which is reflected in the changes of their body plan and the specific design of cell walls. Cell walls not only changed throughout evolution but also are constantly remodelled and reconstructed during the development of an individual plant, and in response to environmental stress or pathogen attacks. Carbohydrate-rich cell walls display complex designs, which together with the presence of phenolic polymers constitutes a barrier for microbes, fungi, and animals. Throughout evolution microbes have co-evolved strategies for efficient breakdown of cell walls. Our current understanding of cell walls and their evolutionary changes are limited as our knowledge is mainly derived from biochemical and genetic studies, complemented by a few targeted yet very informative imaging studies. Comprehensive plant cell wall models will aid in the re-design of plant cell walls for the purpose of commercially viable lignocellulosic biofuel production as well as for the timber, textile, and paper industries. Such knowledge will also be of great interest in the context of agriculture and to plant biologists in general. It is expected that detailed plant cell wall models will require integrated correlative multimodal, multiscale imaging and modelling approaches, which are currently underway.
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