• :algae;
  • cellulose;
  • cell wall;
  • diversity of TC;
  • enzyme complex;
  • evolution of TC;
  • freeze fracture;
  • linear TC;
  • membrane traffic;
  • origin of TC;
  • rosettes;
  • TC;
  • terminal complex

Information on the sites of cellulose synthesis and the diversity and evolution of cellulose-synthesizing enzyme complexes (terminal complexes) in algae is reviewed. There is now ample evidence that cellulose synthesis occurs at the plasma membrane-bound cellulose synthase, with the exception of some algae that produce cellulosic scales in the Golgi apparatus. Freeze-fracture studies of the supramolecular organization of the plasma membrane support the view that the rosettes (a six-subunit complex) in higher plants and both the rosettes and the linear terminal complexes (TCs) in algae are the structures that synthesize cellulose and secrete cellulose microfibrils. In the Zygnemataceae, each single rosette forms a 5-nm or 3-nm single “elementary” microfibril (primary wall), whereas rosettes arranged in rows of hexagonal arrays synthesize criss-crossed bands of parallel cellulose microfibrils (secondary wall). In Spirogyra, it is proposed that each of the six subunits of a rosette might synthesize six β-1,4-glucan chains that cocrystallize into a 36-glucan chain “elementary” microfibril, as is the case in higher plants. One typical feature of the linear terminal complexes in red algae is the periodic arrangement of the particle rows transverse to the longitudinal axis of the TCs. In bangiophyte red algae and in Vaucheria hamata, cellulose microfibrils are thin, ribbon-shaped structures, 1–1.5 nm thick and 5–70 nm wide; details of their synthesis are reviewed. Terminal complexes appear to be made in the endoplasmic reticulum and are transferred to Golgi cisternae, where the cellulose synthases are activated and may be transported to the plasma membrane. In algae with linear TCs, deposition follows a precise pattern directed by the movement and the orientation of the TCs (membrane flow). A principal underlying theme is that the architecture of cellulose microfibrils (size, shape, crystallinity, and intramicrofibrillar associations) is directly related to the geometry of TCs. The effects of inhibitors on the structure of cellulose-synthetizing complexes and the relationship between the deposition of the cellulose microfibrils with cortical microtubules and with the membrane-embedded TCs is reviewed In Porphyra yezoensis, the frequency and distribution of TCs reflect polar tip growth in the apical shoot cell.The evolution of TCs in algae is reviewed. The evidence gathered to date illustrates the utility of terminal complex organization in addressing plant phylogenetic relationships.