Arabinoxylans (AX) and (1→3),(1→4)-β-glucans (BG) are the major components of wheat grain cell walls. Although incompletely described at the molecular level, it is known that the chemical and distributional heterogeneity of these compounds impacts the quality and use of wheat. In this work, an emerging technique based on MALDI mass spectrometry imaging (MSI) was employed to map variations in the quantity, localization, and structure of these polysaccharides in the endosperm during wheat maturation. MALDI MSI couples detailed structural information with the spatial localization observed at the micrometer scale. The enzymic hydrolysis of AX and BG was performed directly on the grain sections, resulting in the efficient formation of smaller oligosaccharides that are easily measurable through MS, with no relocation across the grain. The relative quantification of the generated oligosaccharides was achieved. The method was validated by confirming data previously obtained using other analytical techniques. Furthermore, in situ analysis of grain cell walls through MSI revealed previously undetectable intense acetylation of AX in young compared to mature grains, together with findings concerning the feruloylation of AX and different structural features of BG. These results provide new insights into the physiological roles of these polysaccharides in cell walls and the specificity of the hydrolytic enzymes involved.
Keywords: Acetylated arabinoxylan; beta glucans; cell wall; imaging; in-situ digestion; mass spectrometry; wheat..