All plant cells are encased in primary cell walls that determine plant morphology, but also protect the cells against the environment. Certain cells also produce a secondary wall that supports mechanically demanding processes, such as maintaining plant body stature and water transport inside plants. Both these walls are primarily composed of polysaccharides that are arranged in certain patterns to support cell functions. A key requisite for patterned cell walls is the arrangement of cortical microtubules that may direct the delivery of wall polymers and/or cell wall producing enzymes to certain plasma membrane locations. Microtubules also steer the synthesis of cellulose-the load-bearing structure in cell walls-at the plasma membrane. The organization and behaviour of the microtubule array are thus of fundamental importance to cell wall patterns. These aspects are controlled by the coordinated effort of small GTPases that probably coordinate a Turing's reaction-diffusion mechanism to drive microtubule patterns. Here, we give an overview on how wall patterns form in the water-transporting xylem vessels of plants. We discuss systems that have been used to dissect mechanisms that underpin the xylem wall patterns, emphasizing the VND6 and VND7 inducible systems, and outline challenges that lay ahead in this field.
Keywords: cell wall patterning; cellulose; microtubules; plant cell wall; xylem.