Plant cell enlargement is controlled by the ability of the constraining cell wall to expand. This ability has been postulated to be under the control of polysaccharide hydrolases or transferases that weaken or rearrange the load-bearing polymeric networks in the wall. We recently identified a family of wall proteins, called expansins, that catalyze the extension of isolated plant cell walls. Here we report that these proteins mechanically weaken pure cellulose paper in extension assays and stress relaxation assays, without detectable cellulase activity (exo- or endo- type). Because paper derives its mechanical strength from hydrogen bonding between cellulose microfibrils, we conclude that expansins can disrupt hydrogen bonding between cellulose fibers. This conclusion is further supported by experiments in which expansin-mediated wall extension (i) was increased by 2 M urea (which should weaken hydrogen bonding between wall polymers) and (ii) was decreased by replacement of water with deuterated water, which has a stronger hydrogen bond. The temperature sensitivity of expansin-mediated wall extension suggests that units of 3 or 4 hydrogen bonds are broken by the action of expansins. In the growing cell wall, expansin action is likely to catalyze slippage between cellulose microfibrils and the polysaccharide matrix, and thereby catalyze wall stress relaxation, followed by wall surface expansion and plant cell enlargement.
|Original language||English (US)|
|Number of pages||5|
|Journal||Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America|
|State||Published - Jul 5 1994|
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes