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J Exp Bot. 2006;57(15):3989-4002. Epub 2006 Nov 16.

Calcium pectate chemistry controls growth rate of Chara corallina.

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College of Marine Studies and College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, 700 Pilottown Road, University of Delaware, Lewes, DE 19958, USA.


Pectin, a normal constituent of cell walls, caused growth rates to accelerate to the rates in living cells when supplied externally to isolated cell walls of Chara corallina. Because this activity was not reported previously, the activity was investigated. Turgor pressure (P) was maintained in isolated walls or living cells using a pressure probe in culture medium. Pectin from various sources was supplied to the medium. Ca and Mg were the dominant inorganic elements in the wall. EGTA or pectin in the culture medium extracted moderate amounts of wall Ca and essentially all the wall Mg, and wall growth accelerated. Removing the external EGTA or pectin and replacing with fresh medium returned growth to the original rate. A high concentration of Ca2+ quenched the accelerating activity of EGTA or pectin and caused gelling of the pectin, physically inhibiting wall growth. Low pH had little effect. After the Mg had been removed, Ca-pectate in the wall bore the longitudinal load imposed by P. Removal of this Ca caused the wall to burst. Live cells and isolated walls reacted similarly. It was concluded that Ca cross-links between neighbouring pectin molecules were strong wall bonds that controlled wall growth rates. The central role of Ca-pectate chemistry was illustrated by removing Ca cross-links with new pectin (wall "loosening"), replacing vacated cross-links with new Ca2+ ("Ca2+-tightening"), or adding new cross-links with new Ca-pectate that gelled ("gel tightening"). These findings establish a molecular model for growth that includes wall deposition and assembly for sustained growth activity.

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