Journal of experimental botany

Softening-up mannan-rich cell walls.

PMID 22553284


The softening and degradation of the cell wall (CW), often mannan enriched, is involved in several processes during development of higher plants, such as meristematic growth, fruit ripening, programmed cell death, and endosperm rupture upon germination. Mannans are also the predominant hemicellulosic CW polymers in many genera of green algae. The endosperm CWs of dry seeds often contain mannan polymers, sometimes in the form of galactomannans (Gal-mannans). The endo-β-mannanases (MANs) that catalyse the random hydrolysis of the β-linkage in the mannan backbone are one of the main hydrolytic enzymes involved in the loosening and remodelling of CWs. In germinating seeds, the softening of the endosperm seed CWs facilitates the emergence of the elongating radicle. Hydrolysis and mobilization of endosperm Gal-mannans by MANs also provides a source of nutrients for early seedling growth, since Gal-mannan, besides its structural role, serves as a storage polysaccharide. Therefore, the role of mannans and of their hydrolytic enzymes is decisive in the life cycle of seeds. This review updates and discusses the significance of mannans and MANs in seeds and explores the increasing biotechnological potential of MAN enzymes.