Evolution of the cell wall components during terrestrialization

Alicja Banasiak


Colonization of terrestrial ecosystems by the first land plants, and their subsequent expansion and diversification, were crucial for the life on the Earth. However, our understanding of these processes is still relatively poor. Recent intensification of studies on various plant organisms have identified the plant cell walls are those structures, which played a key role in adaptive processes during the evolution of land plants. Cell wall as a structure protecting protoplasts and showing a high structural plasticity was one of the primary subjects to changes, giving plants the new properties and capabilities, which undoubtedly contributed to the evolutionary success of land plants.

In this paper, the current state of knowledge about some main components of the cell walls (cellulose, hemicelluloses, pectins and lignins) and their evolutionary alterations, as preadaptive features for the land colonization and the plant taxa diversification, is summarized. Some aspects related to the biosynthesis and modification of the cell wall components, with particular emphasis on the mechanism of transglycosylation, are also discussed. In addition, new surprising discoveries related to the composition of various cell walls, which change how we perceive their evolution, are presented, such as the presence of lignin in red algae or MLG (1→3),(1→4)-β-D-glucan in horsetails. Currently, several new and promising projects, regarding the cell wall, have started, deciphering its structure, composition and metabolism in the evolutionary context. That additional information will allow us to better understand the processes leading to the terrestrialization and the evolution of extant land plants.


cell wall; evolution; land plants; terrestrialization; ancestral genes; polysaccharide; lignin

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.5586/asbp.2014.051

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