Assembly and enlargement of the primary cell wall in plants

Annu Rev Cell Dev Biol. 1997;13:171-201. doi: 10.1146/annurev.cellbio.13.1.171.


Growing plant cells are shaped by an extensible wall that is a complex amalgam of cellulose microfibrils bonded noncovalently to a matrix of hemicelluloses, pectins, and structural proteins. Cellulose is synthesized by complexes in the plasma membrane and is extruded as a self-assembling microfibril, whereas the matrix polymers are secreted by the Golgi apparatus and become integrated into the wall network by poorly understood mechanisms. The growing wall is under high tensile stress from cell turgor and is able to enlarge by a combination of stress relaxation and polymer creep. A pH-dependent mechanism of wall loosening, known as acid growth, is characteristic of growing walls and is mediated by a group of unusual wall proteins called expansins. Expansins appear to disrupt the noncovalent bonding of matrix hemicelluloses to the microfibril, thereby allowing the wall to yield to the mechanical forces generated by cell turgor. Other wall enzymes, such as (1-->4) beta-glucanases and pectinases, may make the wall more responsive to expansin-mediated wall creep whereas pectin methylesterases and peroxidases may alter the wall so as to make it resistant to expansin-mediated creep.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Cell Wall / chemistry
  • Cell Wall / ultrastructure*
  • Cellulose / chemistry
  • Cellulose / metabolism
  • Pectins / chemistry
  • Pectins / metabolism
  • Plant Proteins / genetics
  • Plant Proteins / physiology
  • Plants / ultrastructure*
  • Polysaccharides / metabolism


  • Plant Proteins
  • Polysaccharides
  • expansin protein, plant
  • Pectins
  • Cellulose