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The pattern of xylan acetylation suggests xylan may interact with cellulose microfibrils as a twofold helical screw in the secondary plant cell wall of Arabidopsis thaliana

Lookup NU author(s): Dr David Bolam



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC BY 4.0).


The interaction between xylan and cellulose microfibrils is important for secondary cell wall properties in vascular plants; however, the molecular arrangement of xylan in the cell wall and the nature of the molecular bonding between the polysaccharides are unknown. In dicots, the xylan backbone of beta-(1,4)-linked xylosyl residues is decorated by occasional glucuronic acid, and approximately one-half of the xylosyl residues are O-acetylated at C-2 or C-3. We recently proposed that the even, periodic spacing of GlcA residues in the major domain of dicot xylan might allow the xylan backbone to fold as a twofold helical screw to facilitate alignment along, and stable interaction with, cellulose fibrils; however, such an interaction might be adversely impacted by random acetylation of the xylan backbone. Here, we investigated the arrangement of acetyl residues in Arabidopsis xylan using mass spectrometry and NMR. Alternate xylosyl residues along the backbone are acetylated. Using molecular dynamics simulation, we found that a twofold helical screw conformation of xylan is stable in interactions with both hydrophilic and hydrophobic cellulose faces. Tight docking of xylan on the hydrophilic faces is feasible only for xylan decorated on alternate residues and folded as a twofold helical screw. The findings suggest an explanation for the importance of acetylation for xylan-cellulose interactions, and also have implications for our understanding of cell wall molecular architecture and properties, and biological degradation by pathogens and fungi. They will also impact strategies to improve lignocellulose processing for biorefining and bioenergy.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Busse-Wicher M, Gomes TCF, Tryfona T, Nikolovski N, Stott K, Grantham NJ, Bolam DN, Skaf MS, Dupree P

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Plant Journal

Year: 2014

Volume: 79

Issue: 3

Pages: 492-506

Print publication date: 01/08/2014

Online publication date: 15/07/2014

Acceptance date: 27/05/2014

Date deposited: 02/10/2014

ISSN (print): 0960-7412

ISSN (electronic): 1365-313X

Publisher: Wiley-Blackwell Publishing Ltd.


DOI: 10.1111/tpj.12575


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Funder referenceFunder name
Wellcome Trust
140978/2009-7CNPq (Brazil)
251132European Community's Seventh Framework Programme SUNLIBB
BBSRC: BB/G016240/1BBSRC Sustainable Energy Centre Cell Wall Sugars Programme (BSBEC)