Understanding cellulose synthesis can help scientists design energy-rich crops

June 15th, 2009 - 3:14 pm ICT by ANI  

Washington, June 15 (ANI): In a new research, scientists have discovered that cellulose, which is the underlying protein network that provides the scaffolding for plant cell-wall structure, is also the traffic cop for delivering the critical growth-promoting molecules where needed, an understanding that can lead to the design of energy-rich crops in the future.

Researchers at the Carnegie Institution’s Department of Plant Biology led the research.

The research, conducted in collaboration with colleagues at Wageningen University in the Netherlands, is a significant step for understanding how the enzymes that make cellulose and determine plant cell shape arrive at the appropriate location in the cell to do their job.

“Cellulose is the most abundant reservoir of renewable hydrocarbons in the world,” said Carnegie’s David Ehrhardt.

“To understand how cellulose might be modified and how plant development might be manipulated to improve crop plants as efficient sources of energy, we need to first understand the cellular processes that create cellulose and build cell walls,” he added.

In this study, the researchers looked at how the association between the cellulose synthase complexes and microtubules begins.

The scientists were able to watch individual cellulose synthase complexes as they were delivered to the plasma membrane-the permeable film that surrounds the cell, but is inside the cell wall- and found that the microtubules not only guide where the complexes go as they build the cell wall, but microtubules also organize the trafficking and delivery of the cellulose synthase complexes to their place of action.

They also looked at the role in trafficking of a structural element called the actin cytoskeleton that helps move organelles and maintains the cell’s shape.

They found that it appears to be required for the general distribution of the cellulose synthase complexes, whereas microtubules appear to be required for final positioning.

When there is a disruption of the complexes through a stressor such as a rapid change in water movement (osmotic stress), active cellulose synthase complexes disappear and organelles accumulate just under the plasma membrane.

These organelles contain cellulose synthase and are tethered to the microtubules by a novel mechanism.

According to the scientists, the tethering discovered in this research allows the cellulose synthase-containing organelles to stay with the treadmilling microtubules for prolonged periods in times of stress.

They found that when the stress abates, these organelles deliver the cellulose synthase to the membrane. (ANI)

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