Biopolyester Membranes of Plants: Cutin and Suberin

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Science  30 May 1980:
Vol. 208, Issue 4447, pp. 990-1000
DOI: 10.1126/science.208.4447.990


Cutin, a biopolyester composed of hydroxy and epoxy fatty acids, is the barrier between the aerial parts of higher plants and their environment. Suberin a polymer containing aromatics and polyesters, functions as a barrier in underground parts, wound surfaces, and a variety of internal organs. The composition and probable structure of these polymers are discussed. The biosynthesis of the hydroxy, epoxy, and dicarboxylic acids of the polyesters from the common cellular fatty acids is elucidated. An extracellular enzyme transfers the hydroxy and epoxyacyl moieties from their coenzyme A derivatives to the growing polyester. The enzymes acting in the biodegradation of the polyesters have been isolated from fungi, pollen, and mammals and characterized. The function and possible practical implications of these polyester barriers are briefly discussed.