A team of Australian university smarty plants has found a previously unknown biochemical mechanism fundamental to plant life.
The team from The University of Adelaide observed, for the first time, an enzymatic reaction between different types of carbohydrates in the plant cell walls of barley.
The reaction sheds some light on how plant cell walls can be formed, structured and re-modelled.
The knowledge could be used to engineer higher quality foods and to learn how to deconstruct plant cell walls to obtain biofuels.
“Plant cell walls perform a number of essential functions, including providing shape to the many different cell types needed to form the tissues and organs of a plant,” project leader Professor Maria Hrmova said.
“It is one thing to be able to identify the different components of cell walls in plants, but that is not enough. We need to understand how they are formed and what they do, and this method of isolating pure proteins so they can be examined allowed us to do just that.”
Professor Hrmova said the findings could have far-reaching implications for the sustainability of plant-based industries such as agriculture, horticulture and forestry, as well as for biofuels production and food and materials processing.
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