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Department of Botany and Plant Pathology, Purdue University, West Lafayette, Indiana 47907.


The chemical structures of the primary cell walls of the grasses and their progenitors differ from those of all other flowering plant species. They vary in the complex glycans that interlace and cross-link the cellulose microfibrils to form a strong framework, in the nature of the gel matrix surrounding this framework, and in the types of aromatic substances and structural proteins that covalently cross-link the primary and secondary walls and lock cells into shape. This review focuses on the chemistry of the unique polysaccharides, aromatic substances, and proteins of the grasses and how these structural elements are synthesized and assembled into dynamic and functional cell walls. Despite wide differences in wall composition, the developmental physiology of grasses is similar to that of all flowering plants. Grass cells respond similarly to environmental cues and growth regulators, exhibit the same alterations in physical properties of the wall to allow cell growth, and possess similar patterns of wall biogenesis during the development of specific cell and tissue types. Possible unifying mechanisms of growth are suggested to explain how grasses perform the same wall functions as other plants but with different constituents and architecture.

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