Arabinogalactan-proteins: structure, expression and function
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Arabinogalactan-proteins (AGPs) are a family of extensively glycosylated hydroxyproline-rich glycoproteins that are thought to have important roles in various aspects of plant growth and development. After a brief introduction to AGPs highlighting the problems associated with defining and classifying this diverse family of glycoproteins, AGP structure is described in terms of the protein component (including data from molecular cloning), carbohydrate component, processing of AGPs (including recent data on glycosylphosphatidylinositol membrane anchors) and overall molecular shape. Next, the expression of AGPs is examined at several different levels, from the whole plant to the cellular levels, using a variety of experimental techniques and tools. Finally, AGP function is considered. Although the existing functional evidence is not incontrovertible, it does clearly point to roles for AGPs in vegetative, reproductive, and cellular growth and development as well as programmed cell death and social control. In addition and most likely inextricably linked to their functions, AGPs are presumably involved in molecular interactions and cellular signaling at the cell surface. Some likely scenarios are discussed in this context. AGPs also have functions of real or potential commercial value, most notably as emulsifiers in the food industry and as potential immunological regulators for human health. Several important questions remain to be answered with respect to AGPs. Clearly, elucidating the unequivocal functions of particular AGPs and relating these functions to their respective structures and modes of action remain as major challenges in the years ahead.
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