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Int Rev Cytol. 2000;199:161-99.

Cellulose microfibrils in plants: biosynthesis, deposition, and integration into the cell wall.

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  • 1Plant Molecular Science Group, Institute of Biomedical and Life Sciences, University of Glasgow, United Kingdom.


Cellulose occurs in all higher plants and some algae, fungi, bacteria, and animals. It forms microfibrils containing the crystalline allomorphs, cellulose I alpha and I beta. Cellulose molecules are 500-15,000 glucose units long. What controls molecular size is unknown. Microfibrils are elongated by particle rosettes in the plasma membrane (cellulose synthase complexes). The precursor, UDP-glucose, may be generated from sucrose at the site of synthesis. The biosynthetic mechanism may involve lipid-linked intermediates. Cellulose synthase has been purified from bacteria, but not from plants. In plants, disrupted cellulose synthase may form callose. Cellulose synthase genes have been isolated from bacteria and plants. Cellulose-deficient mutants have been characterised. The deduced amino acid sequence suggests possible catalytic mechanisms. It is not known whether synthesis occurs at the reducing or nonreducing end. Endoglucanase may play a role in synthesis. Nascent cellulose molecules associate by Van der Waals and hydrogen bonds to form microfibrils. Cortical microtubules control microfibril orientation, thus determining the direction of cell growth. Self-assembly mechanisms may operate. Microfibril integration into the wall occurs by interactions with matrix polymers during microfibril formation.

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