Primary cell wall metabolism: tracking the careers of wall polymers in living plant cells

Research output: Contribution to journalLiterature reviewpeer-review


Numerous examples have been presented of enzyme activities, assayed in vitro, that appear relevant to the synthesis of structural polysaccharides, and to their assembly and subsequent degradation in the primary cell walls (PCWs) of higher plants. The accumulation of the corresponding mRNAs, and of the (immunologically recognized) proteins, has often also (or instead) been reported. However, the presence of these mRNAs, antigens and enzymic activities has rarely been shown to correspond to enzyme action in the living plant cell. In some cases, apparent enzymic action is observed in vivo for which no enzyme activity can be detected in in-vitro assays; the converse also occurs. Methods are reviewed by which reactions involving structural wall polysaccharides can be tracked in vivo. Special attention is given to xyloglucan endotransglucosylase (XET), one of the two enzymic activities exhibited in vitro by xyloglucan endotransglucosylase/hydrolase (XTH) proteins, because of its probable importance in the construction and restructuring of the PCW's major hemicellulose. Attention is also given to the possibility that some reactions observed in the PCW in vivo are not directly enzymic, possibly involving the action of hydroxyl radicals. It is concluded that some proposed wall enzymes, for example XTHs, do act in vivo, but that for other enzymes this is not proven. <LF>(C)New Phytologist (2004).

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)641-675
Number of pages35
JournalNew Phytologist
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2004


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