Skip to main content
Log in

Prediction of the structures of the plant-specific regions of vascular plant cellulose synthases and correlated functional analysis

  • Original Paper
  • Published:
Cellulose Aims and scope Submit manuscript


Seed plants express cellulose synthase (CESA) protein isoforms with non-redundant functions, but how the isoforms function differently is unknown. Compared to bacterial cellulose synthases, CESAs have two insertions in the large cytosolic loop: the relatively well-conserved Plant Conserved Region (P-CR) and a Class Specific Region (CSR) that varies between CESAs. Absent any atomic structure of a plant CESA, we used ab initio protein structure prediction and molecular modeling to explore how these plant-specific regions may modulate CESA function. We modeled P-CR and CSR peptides from Arabidopsis thaliana CESAs representing the six clades of seed plant CESAs. As expected, the predicted wild type P-CR structures were similar. Modeling of the mutant P-CR of Atcesa8 R362K (fra6) suggested that changes in local structural stability and surface electrostatics may cause the mutant phenotype. Among CSRs within CESAs required for primary wall cellulose synthesis, the amino sequence and the modeled arrangement of helices was most similar in AtCESA1 and AtCESA3. Genetic complementation of known Arabidopsis mutants showed that the CSRs of AtCESA1 and AtCESA3 can function interchangeably in vivo. Analysis of protein surface electrostatics led to ideas about how the surface charges on CSRs may mediate protein–protein interactions. Refined modeling of the P-CR and CSR regions of GhCESA1 from cotton modified their tertiary structures, spatial relationships to the catalytic domain, and preliminary predictions about CESA oligomer formation. Cumulatively, the results provide structural clues about the function of plant-specific regions of CESA.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in via an institution to check access.

Access this article

Price excludes VAT (USA)
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.

Instant access to the full article PDF.

Fig. 1
Fig. 2
Fig. 3
Fig. 4
Fig. 5
Fig. 6

Similar content being viewed by others


Download references


The authors thank Carmen Wilson for her assistance in the generation, propagation, and phenotyping of stable Arabidopsis transformants used in this study.


This work was supported as part of The Center for LignoCellulose Structure and Formation, an Energy Frontier Research Center funded by the US Department of Energy, Office of Science, Basic Energy Sciences (Award Number DE-SC0001090).

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Corresponding authors

Correspondence to Candace H. Haigler or Yaroslava G. Yingling.

Electronic supplementary material

Below is the link to the electronic supplementary material.

Supplementary material 1 (PDF 1320 kb)

Rights and permissions

Reprints and permissions

About this article

Check for updates. Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Sethaphong, L., Davis, J.K., Slabaugh, E. et al. Prediction of the structures of the plant-specific regions of vascular plant cellulose synthases and correlated functional analysis. Cellulose 23, 145–161 (2016).

Download citation

  • Received:

  • Accepted:

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI: