Physiological functions of plant cell coverings
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The cell coverings of plants have two important functions in plant life. Plant cell coverings are deeply involved in the regulation of the life cycle of plants: each stage of the life cycle, such as germination, vegetative growth, reproductive growth, and senescence, is strongly influenced by the nature of the cell coverings. Also, the apoplast, which consists of the cell coverings, is the field where plant cells first encounter the outer environment, and so becomes the major site of plant responses to the environment. In the regulation of each stage of the life cycle and the response to each environmental signal, some specific constituents of the cell coverings, such as xyloglucans in dicotyledons and 1,3,1,4-β-glucans in Gramineae, act as the key component. The physiological functions of plant cell coverings are sustained by the metabolic turnover of these components. The components of the cell coverings are supplied from the symplast, but then they are modified or degraded in the apoplast. Thus, the metabolism of the cell coverings is regulated through the cross-talk between the symplast and the apoplast. The understanding of physiological functions of plant cell coverings will be greatly advanced by the use of genomic approaches. At the same time, we need to introduce nanobiological techniques for clarifying the minute changes in the cell coverings that occur in a small part within each cell.
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