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Phase separation of plant cell wall polysaccharides and its implications for cell wall assembly

MacDougall, A.J., Rigby, N.M., Ring, S.G.
Plant physiology 1997 v.114 no.1 pp. 353-362
Solanum lycopersicum var. lycopersicum, cell walls, polysaccharides, polymers, esters, separation, chemical structure, chemical constituents of plants, cell wall components
Concentrated binary mixtures of polymers in solution commonly exhibit immiscibility, resolving into two separate phases each of which is enriched in one polymer. The plant cell wall is a concentrated polymer assembly, and phase separation of the constituent polymers could make an important contribution to its structural organization and functional properties. However, to our knowledge, there have been no published reports of the phase behavior of cell wall polymers, and this phenomenon is not included in current cell wall models. We fractionated cell walls purified from the pericarp of unripe tomatoes (Lycopersicon esculentum) by extraction with cyclohexane diamine tetraacetic acid (CDTA), Na2CO3, and KOH and examined the behavior of concentrated mixtures. Several different combinations of fractions exhibited phase separation. Analysis of coexisting phases demonstrated the immiscibility of the esterified, relatively unbranched pectic polysaccharide extracted by CDTA and a highly branched, de-esterified pectic polysaccharide present in the 0.5 N KOH extract. Some evidence for phase separation of the CDTA extract and hemicellulosic polymers was also found. We believe that phase separation is likely to be a factor in the assembly of pectic polysaccharides in the cell wall and could, for example,provide the basis for explaining the formation of the middle lamella.