News FocusPlant Biology

When Walls Can Talk, Plant Biologists Listen

Science  02 Oct 1998:
Vol. 282, Issue 5386, pp. 28-29
DOI: 10.1126/science.282.5386.28

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New research is showing that plant cell walls, once thought to be inert boxes passively encasing the active, living material of the cell, contain a gallery of carbohydrates and proteins--whose identities are still largely mysterious--that appear to "talk" to other molecules, both inside and outside the cell. Researchers are trying to track down these messenger molecules and are also exploring just what information they convey. So far, most of the chatter seems to be related to development, as walls direct some cells to become roots while ordering others to develop into shoots and leaves.