Effects of mechanical stretching on average orientation of cellulose and pectin in onion epidermis cell wall: A polarized FT-IR study


The organization of polysaccharides in plant cell walls is important for the mechanics of plant cells. Spectral analysis of cell walls by polarized IR can reveal polysaccharide organization, but may be complicated by dipoles not aligned with the backbone. For instance, analysis of uniaxially-aligned cellulose Iβ film revealed that the dipole transition vector of the 1160 cm−1 band involving stretch vibrations of glycosidic C1–O–C4 linkages is approximately at 30° with respect to the backbone of the cellulose chain, because of coupling with C5–O–C1 bonds in the six-membered rings. In the case of homogalacturonan, the dipole transition vector of the ester carbonyl group vibration (νC=O, 1745 cm−1) is expected to be nearly normal to the homogalacturonan backbone. Using this information and the dichroism equation, the change in net orientation of cell wall polymers upon mechanical stretch was determined by polarized IR analysis. Never-dried abaxial outer epidermal cell walls of the second scale of onion bulb were mechanically stretched along longitudinal or transverse directions with respect to the long axis of the cells and then dried while under mechanical stretch. The average orientations of both 1160 and 1745 cm−1 vibration transition dipoles were rotated by ~5° and ~4°, respectively, along the stretch direction from their initial random distributions upon longitudinal strain by 14%; and by ~4° and ~3°, respectively, upon transverse strain by 12%. These results imply that both cellulose microfibrils and pectins in the cell wall are passively realigned along the stretch direction by external mechanical force. The analytical methodology developed here will be useful to study how cell wall polymers might reorganize during cell wall growth and development.

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This work was supported by the Center for Lignocellulose Structure and Formation (CLSF), an Energy Frontier Research Center funded by the U.S. Department of Energy, Office of Science, Basic Energy Sciences under Award Number DE-SC0001090. We would like to thank Dr. James Kubicki for visualization of the 1160 cm−1 vibration mode from our previous DFT-D2 calculations.

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Correspondence to Daniel J. Cosgrove or Seong H. Kim.

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Kafle, K., Park, Y.B., Lee, C.M. et al. Effects of mechanical stretching on average orientation of cellulose and pectin in onion epidermis cell wall: A polarized FT-IR study. Cellulose 24, 3145–3154 (2017) doi:10.1007/s10570-017-1337-3

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  • Onion epidermis
  • Dichroism
  • Cellulose
  • Pectin
  • Plant cell walls
  • Molecular orientation
  • Mechanical stretch
  • Infra-red spectroscopy