Year of Publication

2011

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

College

Agriculture

Department

Plant Physiology

First Advisor

Dr. Seth DeBolt

Abstract

Plant cell walls are complex structures that must not only constrain cellular turgor pressure but also allow for structural modification during the dynamic processes of cell division and anisotropic expansion. Cell walls are composed of highly glycosylated proteins and polysaccharides, including pectin, hemicellulose and cellulose. The primary cell wall polysaccharide is cellulose, a polymer composed of high molecular weight !- 1,4-glucan chains. Although cellulose is the most abundant biopolymer on Earth, there is still a lot to learn about its biosynthesis and regulation. This research began by applying a variety of analytical techniques in an attempt to understand differences in cell wall composition and cellulose structure within the plant body, between different plant species and as a result of acclimation by the plant to different environmental conditions. Next, a number of different Arabidopsis thaliana lines possessing mutations affecting cell wall biosynthesis were analyzed for changes in cellulose structure (crystallinity) and biomass saccharification efficiency. One of these mutants, isoxaben resistance1-2 (ixr1- 2), which contains a point mutation in the C-terminal transmembrane region (TMR) of cellulose synthase 3 (CESA3), exhibited a 34% lower biomass crystallinity index and a 151% improvement in saccharification efficiency relative to that of wild-type. The culmination of this research began with a chemical screen that identified the molecule quinoxyphen as a primary cell wall cellulose biosynthesis inhibitor. By forward genetics, a semi-dominant mutant showing strong resistance to quinoxyphen named aegeus was identified in A. thaliana and the resistance locus mapped to a point mutation in the TMR of CESA1. cesa1aegeus occurs in a similar location to that of cesa3ixr1-2, illustrating both subunit specificity and commonality of resistance locus. These drug resistant CESA TMR mutants are dwarfed and have aberrant cellulose deposition. High-resolution synchrotron X-ray diffraction and 13C solid-state nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy analysis of cellulose produced from cesa1aegeus, cesa3ixr1-2 and the double mutant shows a reduction in cellulose microfibril width and an increase in mobility of the interior glucan chains of the cellulose microfibril relative to wild-type. These data demonstrate the importance of the TMR region of CESA1 and CESA3 for the arrangement of glucan chains into a crystalline cellulose microfibril in primary cell walls.

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