Mixed-linkage (1 → 3,1 → 4)-beta-D-glucan is a major hemicellulose of Equisetum (horsetail) cell walls

Stephen C. Fry, Bertram H. W. A. Nesselrode, Janice G. Miller, Ben R. Mewburn

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Mixed-linkage (1 -> 3,1 -> 4)-beta-D-glucan (MLG) is a hemicellulose reputedly confined to certain Poales. Here, the taxonomic distribution of MLG, and xyloglucan, especially in early-diverging pteridophytes, has been re-investigated.

Polysaccharides were digested with lichenase and xyloglucan endoglucanase (XEG), which specifically hydrolyse MLG and xyloglucan, respectively. The oligosaccharides produced were analysed by thin-layer chromatography (TLC), high-pressure liquid chromatography (HPLC) and alkaline peeling.

Lichenase yielded oligo-beta-glucans from all Equisetum species tested (Equisetum arvense, Equisetum fluviatile, Equisetum scirpoides, Equisetum sylvaticum and Equisetum x trachyodon). The major product was the tetrasaccharide beta-glucosyl-(1 -> 4)-beta-glucosyl-(1 -> 4)-beta-glucosyl-(1 -> 3)-glucose (G4G4G3G), which was converted to cellotriose by alkali, confirming its structure. Minor products included G3G, G4G3G and a nonasaccharide. By contrast, poalean MLGs yielded G4G3G > G4G4G3G > nonasaccharide > dodecasaccharide. No other pteridophytes tested contained MLG, including Psilotum and eusporangiate ferns. No MLG was found in lycopodiophytes, bryophytes, Chara or Nitella. XEG digestion showed that Equisetum xyloglucan has unusual repeat units.

Equisetum, an exceedingly isolated genus whose closest living relatives diverged > 380 million years ago, has evolved MLG independently of the Poales. Equisetum and poalean MLGs share basic structural motifs but also exhibit clear-cut differences. Equisetum MLG is firmly wall-bound, and may tether neighbouring microfibrils. It is also suggested that MLG acts as a template for silica deposition, characteristic of grasses and horsetails.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)104-115
Number of pages12
JournalNew Phytologist
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2008


  • β-glucan
  • cell walls
  • endotransglucosylase
  • Equisetum
  • lichenase
  • mixed-linkage β-glucan
  • silica
  • xyloglucan

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