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Annu Rev Plant Biol. 2005;56:41-71.

Calcium oxalate in plants: formation and function.

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1
School of Biological Sciences, Washington State University, Pullman, Washington 99164-4236, USA. vfrances@wsu.edu

Abstract

Calcium oxalate (CaOx) crystals are distributed among all taxonomic levels of photosynthetic organisms from small algae to angiosperms and giant gymnosperms. Accumulation of crystals by these organisms can be substantial. Major functions of CaOx crystal formation in plants include high-capacity calcium (Ca) regulation and protection against herbivory. Ultrastructural and developmental analyses have demonstrated that this biomineralization process is not a simple random physical-chemical precipitation of endogenously synthesized oxalic acid and environmentally derived Ca. Instead, crystals are formed in specific shapes and sizes. Genetic regulation of CaOx formation is indicated by constancy of crystal morphology within species, cell specialization, and the remarkable coordination of crystal growth and cell expansion. Using a variety of approaches, researchers have begun to unravel the exquisite control mechanisms exerted by cells specialized for CaOx formation that include the machinery for uptake and accumulation of Ca, oxalic acid biosynthetic pathways, and regulation of crystal growth.

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