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Protein family review

Higher plant cellulose synthases

Todd Richmond

Author Affiliations

Department of Plant Biology, Carnegie Institution of Washington, 260 Panama Street, Stanford, CA 94305, USA

Genome Biology 2000, 1:reviews3001-reviews3001.6  doi:10.1186/gb-2000-1-4-reviews3001

Published: 13 October 2000

Abstract

Cellulose, an aggregate of unbranched polymers of β-1,4-linked glucose residues, is the major component of wood and thus paper, and is synthesized by plants, most algae, some bacteria and fungi, and even some animals. The genes that synthesize cellulose in higher plants differ greatly from the well-characterized genes found in Acetobacter and Agrobacterium sp. More correctly designated as 'cellulose synthase catalytic subunits', plant cellulose synthase (CesA) proteins are integral membrane proteins, approximately 1,000 amino acids in length. The sequences for more than 20 full-length CesA genes are available, and they show high similarity to one another across the entire length of the encoded protein, except for two small regions of variability. There are a number of highly conserved residues, including several motifs shown to be necessary for processive glycosyltransferase activity. No crystal structure is known for cellulose synthase proteins, and the exact enzymatic mechanism is unknown. There are a number of mutations in cellulose synthase genes in the model organism Arabidopsis thaliana. Some of these mutants show altered morphology due to the lack of a properly developed primary or secondary cell wall. Others show resistance to well-characterized cellulose biosynthesis inhibitors.