Cell wall polysaccharides in charophytic algae
O'Rourke, Christina Margaret
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Plants colonised land 460 million years ago and charophytes represent the closest living relatives of land plants. The ability to live on land may depend on the presence of certain cell wall polysaccharides such as xyloglucan, a hemicellulose exclusively found in land plants (Popper and Fry, 2003). The cell walls of charophytes are poorly characterised. The aim of this project was to use biochemical techniques to characterise the cell wall polysaccharides of charophytic algae in relation to early land plant phylogeny. Hydrolysis of Coleochaete scutata and Chara vulgaris cell walls in 2 M trifluoroacetic acid yielded predominantly GalA, Gal, Glc and Man residues and also some Ara, Xyl and traces of Fuc and Rha. In addition, hydrolysis of Chara pectin revealed an abundance of an unusual monosaccharide, 3-O-methyl-D-galactose, which was structurally identified by a series of 1-D and 2D NMR spectroscopy by COSY, TOCSY, NOESY and HSQC. 3-O-Methyl-D-galactose is more commonly found in lycophyte cell walls where its presence has been suggested to be related to lycophytes’ evolutionarily isolated position (Popper et al., 2001). The newly discovered presence of 3-O-methyl-D-galactose in charophyte pectin suggests that this polymer may be more complex than previously thought. Coleochaete and Chara hemicellulose extracts were fractionated by anion-exchange chromatography into five classes. A strongly anionic fraction from Chara hemicellulose was found to be rich in Glc, Xyl, Gal and Fuc suggestive of a xyloglucan-like polysaccharide. However, XEG was unable to produce diagnostic xyloglucan oligosaccharides in either Coleochaete or Chara hemicelluloses. Xylanase and mannanase digestion of Coleochaete and Chara hemicelluloses gave xylan- and mannan-oligosaccharides. Furthermore, lichenase digestion of Coleochaete hemicellulose yielded an unusual octasaccharide composed of approximately equimolar xylose and glucose. My work has shown that charophyte cell walls are a source of undiscovered monosaccharides and potentially novel pectic and hemicellulosic domains which may have important functions in enabling the successful colonisation of land by plants.