Xyloglucan sidechains modulate binding to cellulose during in vitro binding assays as predicted by conformational dynamics simulations

Plant J. 1997 Mar;11(3):373-86. doi: 10.1046/j.1365-313x.1997.11030373.x.


Cross-links between cellulose microfibrils and xyloglucan (XG) molecules play a major role in defining the structural properties of plant cell walls and the regulation of growth and development of dicotyledonous plants. How these cross-links are established and how they are regulated has yet to be determined. In a previous study, preliminary data were presented which suggested that the different sidechains of XG may play a role in controlling cellulose microfibril-XG interactions. In this study, this question is addressed directly by analyzing to what extent the different sidechains of pea cell wall XG and nasturtium seed storage XG affect their binding to cellulose microfibrils. Of particular importance to this study are the chemical data indicating that pea XG possesses a trisaccharide sidechain, which is not found in nasturtium XG. To this end, conformational dynamic simulations have been used to predict whether oligosaccharides representative of pea and nasturtium XG can adopt a hypothesized cellulose-binding conformation and which of these XGs exhibits a preferential ability to bind cellulose. Extensive analysis of the conformational forms populated during 300 K and high-temperature Monte Carlo simulations established that a planar, sterically accessible, glucan backbone is essential for optimal cellulose-binding. For the trisaccharide sidechain-containing oligosaccharide as found in pea XG, sidechain orientation appeared to regulate the gradual acquisition of this hypothesized cellulose binding conformation. Thus, conformational forms were identified that included the twisted backbone (non-planar) putative solution form of XG, forms in which the trisaccharide sidechain orientation enables increased backbone planarity and steric accessibility, and finally a planar, sterically accessible, backbone. By applying these conformational requirements for cellulose binding, it has been determined that pea XG possesses a two- to threefold occurrence of the cellulose binding conformation than nasturtium XG. Based on this finding, it was predicted that pea XG would bind to cellulose at a higher rate than nasturtium XG. In vitro binding assays showed that pea XG-avicel binding does indeed occur at a twofold higher rate than nasturtium XG-avicel binding. The enhanced ability of pea cell wall XG over nasturtium seed storage XG to associate with cellulose is consistent with a structural role of the former during epicotyl growth where efficient association with cellulose is a requirement. In contrast, the relatively low ability of nasturtium XG to bind cellulose is consistent with the need to enhance the accessibility of this polymer to glycanases during germination. These findings suggest potential roles for XG sidechain substitution, enabling XG to function in a variety of different biological contexts.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Binding Sites
  • Carbohydrate Conformation
  • Carbohydrate Sequence
  • Cellulose / chemistry*
  • Cellulose / metabolism
  • Computer Simulation
  • Glucans*
  • Models, Molecular
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Oligosaccharides / chemistry
  • Peas
  • Plants
  • Polysaccharides / chemistry*
  • Polysaccharides / metabolism
  • Thermodynamics
  • Xylans*


  • Glucans
  • Oligosaccharides
  • Polysaccharides
  • Xylans
  • xyloglucan
  • Cellulose