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Carbohydrate Polymers
Vol. 125, 2015, Pages: 120–134

Application of X-ray and neutron small angle scattering techniques to study the hierarchical structure of plant cell walls: A review

Marta Martínez-Sanz, Michael J. Gidley, Elliot P. Gilbert

Bragg Institute, Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation, Locked Bag 2001, Kirrawee DC, NSW 2232, Australia.


Plant cell walls present an extremely complex structure of hierarchically assembled cellulose microfibrils embedded in a multi-component matrix. The biosynthesis process determines the mechanism of cellulose crystallisation and assembly, as well as the interaction of cellulose with other cell wall components. Thus, a knowledge of cellulose microfibril and bundle architecture, and the structural role of matrix components, is crucial for understanding cell wall functional and technological roles. Small angle scattering techniques, combined with complementary methods, provide an efficient approach to characterise plant cell walls, covering a broad and relevant size range while minimising experimental artefacts derived from sample treatment. Given the system complexity, approaches such as component extraction and the use of plant cell wall analogues are typically employed to enable the interpretation of experimental results. This review summarises the current research status on the characterisation of the hierarchical structure of plant cell walls using small angle scattering techniques.

Keywords: Small angle scattering; Neutron scattering; X-ray scattering; Cellulose; Plant cell wall.

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