Dynamic plant and algal cell walls: insights and perspectives on cell wall diversity and functionality
Botany and Plant Science, Ryan Institute, NUI Galway
Most plant and algal cells are enveloped in a carbon-rich cell wall; the main deposit of photosynthetically-fixed carbon. Cell walls are important to humans as a source of food, fuel, fibres and building materials. Within plants and algae, cell walls play a central role in many functions including expansive cell growth, cell-cell communication, and development and determined by their composition. Cell walls are complex biomaterials composed of stiff cellulose microfibrils embedded in a soft matrix of polysaccharides, proteins, and phenolic compounds. However, the precise composition of varies between different species and depends on phylogeny i.e. inheritance of the necessary biosynthetic machinery to make specific polymers. Wall composition is also modified by experience. For example different wall components may be deposited depending on developmental stage, or in response to abiotic factors, such as wind, or biotic factors, such as pathogen attack. Differences in wall composition also exist at the cellular, and even sub-cellular, level and are important for functionality, for example impacting wall biomechanical properties. Therefore cell wall composition has a strong influence on plant and algal adaptation, diversification, and ultimately survival.