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Plant cell walls are the earth's most abundant source of terrestrial biomass. Growing cell walls can be considered as "fibre composites", where cellulose microfibrils are embedded in a matrix of complex glycans.

These biopolymer assemblies collectively determine the shape and mechanical properties of plant cells. It is becoming increasingly apparent (i) that cell wall glycans are diverse in structural terms; (ii) that these structures are developmentally regulated; and (iii) that not all cell walls in an organ are comprised of the same configurations of glycans. The architecture of plant cell walls is governed by the fine structure of their constitutive polymers, this fine structure having profound effects on polymers functional properties after extraction or in planta. The immense complexity and spatial & temporal versatility of cell wall glycans render a full understanding of their structure-function relationships extremely challenging for plant biology research and for the application and exploitation of results. An extended knowledge of cell wall structure & dynamics and a better understanding of the structure-function relationships of plant cell wall polymers are fundamental for the optimization of the uses of cell wall-derived materials in industrial contexts.

In that context, WallTraC has two major interlinked strategic objectives:

  • Research: To develop new molecular tools & techniques for the analysis of plant cell walls & their component polymers - mainly pectin and cellulose - with direct applicability to industrial end-users in the functional food ingredients & plant fibre sectors;
  • Training: To provide high quality, intersectorial & trans-disciplinary training in plant cell wall analysis & complementary skills with the aim of enabling young scientists to respond to future demands in both academic and private sectors thereby securing the future EU expertise base.