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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2011 Nov 22;108(47):E1195-203. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1108942108. Epub 2011 Nov 7.

Nanostructure of cellulose microfibrils in spruce wood.

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  • 1Centre for Plant Integrative Biology, University of Nottingham, Sutton Bonnington Campus, Leicestershire LE12 5RD, United Kingdom.


The structure of cellulose microfibrils in wood is not known in detail, despite the abundance of cellulose in woody biomass and its importance for biology, energy, and engineering. The structure of the microfibrils of spruce wood cellulose was investigated using a range of spectroscopic methods coupled to small-angle neutron and wide-angle X-ray scattering. The scattering data were consistent with 24-chain microfibrils and favored a "rectangular" model with both hydrophobic and hydrophilic surfaces exposed. Disorder in chain packing and hydrogen bonding was shown to increase outwards from the microfibril center. The extent of disorder blurred the distinction between the I alpha and I beta allomorphs. Chains at the surface were distinct in conformation, with high levels of conformational disorder at C-6, less intramolecular hydrogen bonding and more outward-directed hydrogen bonding. Axial disorder could be explained in terms of twisting of the microfibrils, with implications for their biosynthesis.

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