University of Cambridge > > Chemistry Departmental-wide lectures > Melville Mini-symposium: Wood Hemicelluloses: Molecular Structure and Interactions in Woody Tissues

Melville Mini-symposium: Wood Hemicelluloses: Molecular Structure and Interactions in Woody Tissues

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Wood hemicelluloses are fundamental components of plant secondary cell walls, together with cellulose, pectins and lignin. Hemicelluloses represent a complex and heterogeneous family of polysaccharides that share with cellulose a (14) backbone of pentose and hexose building blocks. However, unlike cellulose, hemicelluloses are decorated with a wide pattern of neutral sugar and uronic acid substitutions, and can be further substituted by O-acetyl groups. In softwoods, acetylated galactoglucomannan represent the main hemicellulose component, whereas arabinoglucuronoxylan is present in lower amounts. In hardwoods, on the contrary, it is acetylated glucuronoxylan the most abundant component with minor amounts of acetylated glucomannan. The biological and functional explanation for this compositional and structural diversity of hemicelluloses is still unknown. The molecular heterogeneity of hemicelluloses modulates the hydration and the intensity of their interactions with cellulose microfibrils and lignin in woody tissues. However, the interplay amongst cell wall components and their effect on the biomechanical integrity of secondary cell walls are still controversial. In the presentation, the implications of hemicellulose molecular structure on the secondary cell wall architecture will be discussed. We have combined experimental approaches using sequentially extracted hemicelluloses and their advanced characterization using mass spectrometry based glycomic approaches, their incorporation in bacterial cellulose hydrogels and the study of the biomechanical properties, and molecular dynamic (MD) simulations of the interaction of selected mannan and xylan motifs with cellulose microfibril surfaces.

This talk is part of the Chemistry Departmental-wide lectures series.

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