Students of metazoan biology have traditionally viewed the extracellular matrix (ECM) as a substrate with which cells interact to participate in developmental pattern formation and define a specific location. In contrast, the plant cell wall has been viewed as a cage that limits and thus directs plant cell morphology, and perhaps for this reason many have shied away from calling the plant cell wall the ECM. The recent discovery of a variety of receptor molecules and their ligands on the surface of plant cells and the intimate role cell walls play in development should direct our thinking toward a more dynamic view of the plant cell wall. A recent example, is the discovery of wall associated kinases (WAKs), which may well signal between the ECM and the cell and are required for cell expansion.
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