Program 1: Synthesis & Assembly

Discovering genes and mechanisms that regulate the structure and assembly of sugars in the plant cell wall.

The plant cell wall is an extremely complex structure that sits at the periphery of every plant cell. It provides strength and protection from mechanical and pathogenic attack, and houses signalling and storage molecules to support growth and development. Many people will be familiar with the major component of the plant cell wall, cellulose, which consists of glucose sugars arranged into rigid and insoluble fibres. The remainder of the cell wall comprises lignin, pectin, protein and other sugars. The Centre of Excellence is particularly interested in these other sugars — the non-cellulosic polysaccharides — in the cell walls of cereal and other grass species.




The two main non-cellulosic polysaccharides in grasses are mixed linkage glucan (β-glucan) and arabinoxylan. The amount and structure of these polysaccharides within the wall influences their function in a particular tissue and their usefulness as a key source of fibre for human nutrition. Despite this, mechanisms that control their synthesis and deposition in the plant cell wall have not been fully elucidated. We are using common cereal plants like barley, wheat and rice together other novel species to understand how and where these non-cellulosic polysaccharides are assembled and what genes govern their regulation.