Wang, T., P. Phyo, and M. Hong, Multidimensional solid-state NMR spectroscopy of plant cell walls. Solid State Nuclear Magnetic Resonance, 2016. 78: p. 56-63.
Plant biomass has become an important source of bio-renewable energy in modern society. The molecular structure of plant cell walls is difficult to characterize by most atomic-resolution techniques due to the insoluble and disordered nature of the cell wall. Solid-state NMR (SSNMR) spectroscopy is uniquely suited for studying native hydrated plant cell walls at the molecular level with chemical resolution. Significant progress has been made in the last five years to elucidate the molecular structures and interactions of cellulose and matrix polysaccharides in plant cell walls. These studies have focused on primary cell walls of growing plants in both the dicotyledonous and grass families, as represented by the model plants Arabidopsis thaliana, Brachypodium distachyon, and Zea mays. To date, these SSNMR results have shown that 1) cellulose, hemicellulose, and pectins form a single network in the primary cell wall; 2) in dicot cell walls, the protein expansin targets the hemicellulose-enriched region of the cellulose microfibril for its wall-loosening function; and 3) primary wall cellulose has polymorphic structures that are distinct from the microbial cellulose structures. This article summarizes these key findings, and points out future directions of investigation to advance our fundamental understanding of plant cell wall structure and function.