Anisotropic Motions of Fibrils Dictated by Their Orientations in the Lamella: A Coarse-Grained Model of a Plant Cell Wall

J Phys Chem B. 2020 Apr 30;124(17):3527-3539. doi: 10.1021/acs.jpcb.0c01697. Epub 2020 Apr 20.


Plant cell walls are complex systems that exhibit the characteristics of both rigid and soft material depending on their external perturbations. The three main polymeric components in a plant primary cell wall are cellulose fibrils, hemicellulose, and pectins. These components interact in a hierarchical fashion giving rise to mesoscale structural features such as cellulose bundles, lamella stacking, and so on. Although several studies have focused on understanding these unique structural features, a clear picture linking them to cell wall mechanics is still lacking. As a first step toward this goal, a phenomenological model of plant cell wall has been developed in this work by using available experimental data to investigate the underlying connections between mesoscale structural features and the motions of fibrils during deformation. In this model cellulose fibrils exhibit motions such as angular reorientations and kinking upon forced stretching. These motions are dependent on the orientation of fibrils with respect to the stretch direction, i.e., fibrils that are at an angle to the stretch direction exhibit predominant angular reorientations, while fibrils transverse to the stretch direction undergo kinking as a result of transverse compression. Varying the chain length of pectin had negligible effects on these motions. One of the main contributions from this work is the development of a simple model that can be easily fine-tuned to test other hypotheses and extended to include additional experimental knowledge about the structural aspects of cell walls in the future.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Anisotropy
  • Cell Membrane
  • Cell Wall*
  • Cellulose
  • Pectins*


  • Pectins
  • Cellulose