A microsomal preparation from suspension-cultured potato stem cells (Solanum tuberosum L. cv. AZY) was incubated with [14C]acetyl-CoA resulting in a precipitable radiolabeled product. Analysis of the product revealed that it consisted mostly of acetylated proteins and cell wall polysaccharides, including xyloglucan, homogalacturonan and rhamnogalacturonan I. Thus, acetyl-CoA is a donor-substrate for the O-acetylation of wall polysaccharides. A rhamnogalacturonan acetylesterase was used to develop an assay to measure and characterize rhamnogalacturonan O-acetyl transferase activity in the microsomal preparation. Using this assay, it was shown that the transferase activity was highest during the linear growth phase of the cells, had a pH-optimum at pH 7.0, a temperature optimum at 30 degrees C, an apparent Km of 35 microM and an apparent Vmax of 0.9 pkat per mg protein. Further analysis of the radiolabeled acetylated product revealed that it had a molecular mass > 500 kDa.