Cells of tobacco (Nicotiana tabacum L.) adapted to grow in severe osmotic stress of 428 millimolar NaCl (-23 bar) or 30% polyethylene glycol 8000 (-28 bar) exhibit a drastically altered growth physiology that results in slower cell expansion and fully expanded cells with volumes only one-fifth to one-eighth those of unadapted cells. This reduced cell volume occurs despite maintenance of turgor pressures sometimes severalfold higher than those of unadapted cells. This report and others (NM Iraki et al  Plant Physiol 90: 000-000 and 000-000) document physical and biochemical alterations of the cell walls which might explain how adapted cells decrease the ability of the wall to expand despite diversion of carbon used for osmotic adjustment away from synthesis of cell wall polysaccharides. Tensile strength measured by a gas decompression technique showed empirically that walls of NaCl-adapted cells are much weaker than those of unadapted cells. Correlated with this weakening was a substantial decrease in the proportion of crystalline cellulose in the primary cell wall. Even though the amount of insoluble protein associated with the wall was increased relative to other wall components, the amount of hydroxyproline in the insoluble protein of the wall was only about 10% that of unadapted cells. These results indicate that a cellulosic-extensin framework is a primary determinant of absolute wall tensile strength, but complete formation of this framework apparently is sacrificed to divert carbon to substances needed for osmotic adjustment. We propose that the absolute mass of this framework is not a principal determinant of the ability of the cell wall to extend.
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