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Planta. 2006 Jan;223(2):149-58. Epub 2005 Dec 16.

Secondary cell-wall assembly in flax phloem fibres: role of galactans.

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Kazan Institute of Biochemistry and Biophysics, KSC RAS, p/o box 30, Kazan, Tatarstan 420111, Russia.


Non-lignified fibre cells (named gelatinous fibres) are present in tension wood and the stems of fibre crops (such as flax and hemp). These cells develop a very thick S2 layer within the secondary cell wall, which is characterised by (1) cellulose microfibrils largely parallel to the longitudinal axis of the cell, and (2) a high proportion of galactose-containing polymers among the non-cellulosic polysaccharides. In this review, we focus on the role of these polymers in the assembly of gelatinous fibres of flax. At the different stages of fibre development, we analyse in detail data based on sugar composition, linkages of pectic polymers, and immunolocalisation of the beta-(1-->4)-galactans. These data indicate that high molecular-mass gelatinous galactans accumulate in specialised Golgi-derived vesicles during fibre cell-wall thickening. They consist of RG-I-like polymers with side chains of beta-(1-->4)-linked galactose. Most of them are short, but there are also long chains containing up to 28 galactosyl residues. At fibre maturity, two types of cross-linked galactans are identified, a C-L structure that resembles the part of soluble galactan with long side chains and a C-S structure with short chains. Different possibilities for soluble galactan to give rise to C-L and C-S are analysed. In addition, we discuss the prospect for the soluble galactan in preventing the newly formed cellulose chains from completing immediate crystallisation. This leads to a hypothesis that firstly the secretion of soluble galactans plays a role in the axial orientation of cellulose microfibrils, and secondly the remodelling and cross-linking of pectic galactans are linked to the dehydration and the assembly of S2 layer.

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