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Cellulose-microfibril-orienting mechanisms in plant cells walls


A brief review is given of the changing views over the years, as knowledge of wall structure has developed, concerning the mechanism whereby cellulose chains may be oriented. This leads to an examination of current concepts, particularly those concerning microtubules. It is shown that none of the mechanisms suggested whereby microtubules might cause orientation of cellulose microfibrils is consistent with the known range of molecular architectures found in plant cell walls. It is further concluded that any mechanism which necessitates an indissoluble link between the plasmalemma and the cellulose-synthesising complex at the tip of a microfibril is unacceptable. A new proposal is presented in which it is speculated that both microtubules and microfibrils are oriented by a mechanism separate from both. It is shown that if two vectors are contemplated, one parallel to cell length and one at right angles, and a sensor exists on the plasmalemma surface which responds to changes in the vectors, then all known wall structures may be explained. The possible nature of the vectors and the sensor are considered.

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Preston, R.D. Cellulose-microfibril-orienting mechanisms in plant cells walls. Planta 174, 67–74 (1988).

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Key words

  • Cellulose (chain orientation)
  • Cell wall (structure)
  • Microfibril (orientation)
  • Microtubule (orientation)