However, recent work from the Carnegie Institution’s Department of Plant Biology and Stanford University describes the first real-time observations of cellulose fiber formation. The research, published in the April 20 online issue of Science Express, provides the first clear evidence for a functional connection between synthesis of the cell wall and an array of protein fibers--called microtubules--that help to shape growing plant cells from the inside.
Molecules of cellulose synthase, the enzyme that produces cellulose, follow microtubule “tracks” in growing plant cells. Each image in this set consists of 30 frames, taken at 10 second intervals ...
"The more we understand about cellulose, the easier it will be to modify it," said Chris Somerville, director of the Carnegie department. "With this knowledge, we are one step closer to designing energy-rich biofuel crops and improved fiber crops."
Cellulose fibers make up a significant portion of the dry weight of most plants. Because the fibers can be broken down into the sugar glucose, which can then be converted into ethanol and other biofuels, there are huge incentives to learn more about how plants produce and modify the molecule. Cellulose is also the main constituent of cotton, paper, wood, and animal feeds such as hay.
Somerville, along with colleague David Ehrhardt and Stanford graduate student Alex Paredez, engineered plants to produce a fluorescent version of cellulose synthase, the enzyme that creates cellulose fibers. They also included a fluorescent version of tubulin, the protein from which microtubules are built. Using an imaging technique that can track the motion of single fluorescent molecules, the researchers found that cellulose synthase moves along "tracks" defined by the microtubules. When the microtubule tracks were disrupted with specific drugs, the cellulose synthase molecules kept moving, but they followed different, less directed patterns.
"Many scientists had suspected a relationship between cellulose synthase and microtubules, but the exact nature of the interaction was hard to pinpoint," Ehrhardt said. "The microtubules act as more than a general scaffold for organizing the cell wall; individual elements of the microtubule array appear to actively direct the pattern of the cellulose fibers. This work should set a long-standing discussion to rest."
Dr. Chris Somerville | EurekAlert!
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Astronomers from Bonn and Tautenburg in Thuringia (Germany) used the 100-m radio telescope at Effelsberg to observe several galaxy clusters. At the edges of these large accumulations of dark matter, stellar systems (galaxies), hot gas, and charged particles, they found magnetic fields that are exceptionally ordered over distances of many million light years. This makes them the most extended magnetic fields in the universe known so far.
The results will be published on March 22 in the journal „Astronomy & Astrophysics“.
Galaxy clusters are the largest gravitationally bound structures in the universe. With a typical extent of about 10 million light years, i.e. 100 times the...
Researchers at the Goethe University Frankfurt, together with partners from the University of Tübingen in Germany and Queen Mary University as well as Francis Crick Institute from London (UK) have developed a novel technology to decipher the secret ubiquitin code.
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In the eternal search for next generation high-efficiency solar cells and LEDs, scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory and their partners are creating...
Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are less stable. Now researchers at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) have, for the first time ever, produced a composite material combining silicon nanosheets and a polymer that is both UV-resistant and easy to process. This brings the scientists a significant step closer to industrial applications like flexible displays and photosensors.
Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are...
Enzymes behave differently in a test tube compared with the molecular scrum of a living cell. Chemists from the University of Basel have now been able to simulate these confined natural conditions in artificial vesicles for the first time. As reported in the academic journal Small, the results are offering better insight into the development of nanoreactors and artificial organelles.
Enzymes behave differently in a test tube compared with the molecular scrum of a living cell. Chemists from the University of Basel have now been able to...
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