The dynamic regulation of extracellular matrix charge and its implications for downstream signalling processes in plants

Dr. Elke Barbez (CIBSS-AI), Institute of Biology II (Faculty of Biology), University of Freiburg

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The extracellular matrix (ECM) (also called cell wall) in plants is negatively charged largely due to the high abundance of pectin, an acidic structural hetero-polysaccharide.

It is text book knowledge that the majority of non-esterified pectin in the cell-wall is bound with divalent Ca2+ ions to form a so-called egg box structure important for cell strength and rigidity (Taiz and Zeiger, 2010). In addition to this structural function, we hypothesize that the chemical charges in the plant ECM affect the acquisition of positively charged nutrients from the plant’s environment.  We therefore dissect the molecular mechanisms behind ECM charge regulation in roots along with its importance for nutrient acquisition. In addition, we assess how cell wall charge impacts on Ca2+-ECM binding dynamics and what are its implications for downstream signalling processes in plants.

Gaining insight into how plants regulate their cell wall charge in order to adapt themselves to variable growth environments will help to optimize and eventually reduce the need for expensive and often harmful fertilizers in agriculture.