What makes plant cell walls both strong and extensible?—–a collaborative study led by Prof. Sulin Zhang and Prof. Daniel Cosgrove in Science

The plant cell wall possesses an unusual combination of strength and ability to expand without weakening or breaking (a quality required for plant growth), but the molecular basis for these traits has long been unclear. In a collaborative study led by Prof. Sulin Zhang and Prof. Daniel Cosgrove published in Science (https://science.sciencemag.org/content/372/6543/706), we investigated the complex mechanics of plant cell walls using modeling and experiment. Our model reveals that chains of cellulose bundle together within the cell wall, providing strength, and slide against each other when the cell is stretched, providing extensibility. The new study presents a new concept of the plant cell wall, gives insights into plant cell growth, and could provide inspiration for the design of polymeric materials with new properties.

A one-minute introduction about this study can be found in the following video:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h0h7VKQ8LlI

 

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