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Nat Plants. 2019 Jan;5(1):41-46. doi: 10.1038/s41477-018-0330-7. Epub 2018 Dec 17.

The molecular structure of plant sporopollenin.

Author information

1
Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research, Cambridge, MA, USA.
2
Department of Chemistry, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA, USA.
3
Department of Biology, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA, USA.
4
Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research, Cambridge, MA, USA. wengj@wi.mit.edu.
5
Department of Biology, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA, USA. wengj@wi.mit.edu.

Abstract

Sporopollenin is a ubiquitous and extremely chemically inert biopolymer that constitutes the outer wall of all land-plant spores and pollen grains1. Sporopollenin protects the vulnerable plant gametes against a wide range of environmental assaults, and is considered a prerequisite for the migration of early plants onto land2. Despite its importance, the chemical structure of plant sporopollenin has remained elusive1. Using a newly developed thioacidolysis degradative method together with state-of-the-art solid-state NMR techniques, we determined the detailed molecular structure of pine sporopollenin. We show that pine sporopollenin is primarily composed of aliphatic-polyketide-derived polyvinyl alcohol units and 7-O-p-coumaroylated C16 aliphatic units, crosslinked through a distinctive dioxane moiety featuring an acetal. Naringenin was also identified as a minor component of pine sporopollenin. This discovery answers the long-standing question about the chemical make-up of plant sporopollenin, laying the foundation for future investigations of sporopollenin biosynthesis and for the design of new biomimetic polymers with desirable inert properties.

PMID:
30559416
DOI:
10.1038/s41477-018-0330-7

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