In vitro synthesis and properties of pectin/Acetobacter xylinus cellulose composites

Plant J. 1999 Oct;20(1):25-35. doi: 10.1046/j.1365-313x.1999.00571.x.


Pectin and cellulose are major components of most primary cell walls, yet little is known about the way in which they interact either during assembly or in subsequent functional performance of the wall. As a mimic of cell wall assembly, we studied the formation of molecular composites formed by deposition of cellulose from Acetobacter xylinus into pectin/calcium systems, and the molecular, architectural and mechanical properties of the composites obtained. The formation of interpenetrating cellulose/pectin composite networks (as envisaged in current models for primary cell walls) required a pre-existing, but not too strong, pectin network. For pectin either in solution or strongly networked, phase separation from cellulose occurred, providing two physical models for the formation of middle lamellae. Composite networks showed no evidence of direct molecular interaction between the components, but pectin networks became more aggregated following deposition of cellulose into them. The shear strength under small deformation conditions for cellulose/pectin composites was very similar to that of cellulose alone. In contrast, under uniaxial tension, extensibility was greatly increased and stiffness decreased. These major changes were due to the effect of pectin on cellulose network architecture at deposition, as they were maintained upon removal of the pectin component. These results show that the presence and physical state of pectin at the time of cellulose deposition in muro may be a significant determinant of subsequent extensibility without compromising strength.