Cuticular waxes and cutin form the cuticle, a hydrophobic layer covering the aerial surfaces of land plants and acting as a protective barrier against environmental stresses. Very-long-chain fatty acid derived compounds that compose the cuticular waxes are produced in the endoplasmic reticulum of epidermal cells before being exported to the environmental face of the epidermis. Twenty years of genetic studies on Arabidopsis thaliana have led to the molecular characterization of enzymes catalyzing major steps in fatty acid elongation and wax biosynthesis. Although transporters required for wax export from the plasma membrane have been identified, intracellular and extracellular traffic remains largely unknown. In accordance with its major function in producing an active waterproof barrier, wax metabolism is up-regulated at the transcriptional level in response to water deficiency. However its developmental regulation is still poorly described. Here, we discuss the present knowledge of wax functions, biosynthesis and transport as well as the regulation of these processes.
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