Cellulose structure and biosynthesis: What is in store for the 21st century?



This article briefly summarizes historical developments in fundamental research related to the structure and biosynthesis of cellulose. Major advances concerning the structure of cellulose include the discovery of a new suballomorph of cellulose I, the lattice imaging of glucan chains showing no fringe micelle structure, parallel chain orientation in cellulose I, and the discovery of nematic ordered cellulose. Major advances in biosynthesis include the discovery of the terminal synthesizing complex, the isolation and purification of cellulose synthase, the in vitro synthesis of cellulose I, and synthetic cellulose assembly. This article focuses on recent advances in molecular biology with cellulose, including the cloning and sequencing of cellulose synthase genes from bacteria, cyanobacteria, and vascular plants; proof of the terminal synthesizing complex as the site of the catalytic subunit of cellulose synthase; cellulose and callose synthase expression during growth and development; and phylogenetic aspects of cellulose synthase evolution. This article concludes with thoughts about future uses for the accumulating genetic information on cellulose biosynthesis for textiles and forest products and discusses possibilities of new global resources for cellulose production. © 2003 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. J Polym Sci Part A: Polym Chem 42: 487–495, 2004