Sealing plant surfaces: cuticular wax formation by epidermal cells

Annu Rev Plant Biol. 2008;59:683-707. doi: 10.1146/annurev.arplant.59.103006.093219.


The vital importance of plant surface wax in protecting tissue from environmental stresses is reflected in the huge commitment of epidermal cells to cuticle formation. During cuticle deposition, a massive flux of lipids occurs from the sites of lipid synthesis in the plastid and the endoplasmic reticulum to the plant surface. Recent genetic studies in Arabidopsis have improved our understanding of fatty acid elongation and of the subsequent modification of the elongated products into primary alcohols, wax esters, secondary alcohols, and ketones, shedding light on the enzymes involved in these pathways. In contrast, the biosynthesis of alkanes is still poorly understood, as are the mechanisms of wax transport from the site of biosynthesis to the cuticle. Currently, nothing is known about wax trafficking from the endoplasmic reticulum to the plasma membrane, or about translocation through the cell wall to the cuticle. However, a first breakthrough toward an understanding of wax export recently came with the discovery of ATP binding cassette (ABC) transporters that are involved in releasing wax from the plasma membrane into the apoplast. An overview of our present knowledge of wax biosynthesis and transport and the regulation of these processes during cuticle assembly is presented, including the evidence for coordination of cutin polyester and wax production.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Alcohols / metabolism
  • Alkanes / metabolism
  • Allium / metabolism
  • Arabidopsis / physiology*
  • Arabidopsis Proteins / metabolism*
  • Biological Transport
  • Cell Wall / metabolism
  • Fatty Acids / metabolism
  • Ketones / metabolism
  • Plant Epidermis / metabolism*
  • Waxes / metabolism*


  • Alcohols
  • Alkanes
  • Arabidopsis Proteins
  • Fatty Acids
  • Ketones
  • Waxes