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Issue 21, 2009
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Reversible stress softening and stress recovery of cellulose networks

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The mechanical properties of the plant cell wall play an important role in communication, differentiation and growth of plant cells. In particular, the expansive growth of plant cells is only possible because the material that forms the plant cell wall yields at a specific stress level, allowing for an increase in cell wall area. This process can be defined in mechanical terms as the relaxation of the wall stress. The current understanding of plant cell growth suggests that such relaxation behaviour occurs due to the presence of wall loosening agents rather than to the properties of the cellulose network itself. It is believed that certain nonenzymatic proteins, acting as wall loosening agents, produce the yielding phenomenon that leads to wall stress relaxation. Here we suggest that cellulose networks display certain mechanical properties that might change our understanding of plant cell growth, indicating that it is probably the cellulose network itself, and not the so-called loosening agents, that is the main factor that determines wall stress relaxation. We show that cellulose networks synthesised by Gluconacetobacter bacteria exhibit reversible stress softening and stress recovery. Reversible stress softening of cellulose networks should play an important role during the wall relaxation process, while stress recovery protects the structural integrity of plant cells at higher loads. The understanding of both stress softening and stress recovery shall allow for the development of more realistic models of plant cell expansive growth.

Graphical abstract: Reversible stress softening and stress recovery of cellulose networks

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Publication details

The article was received on 13 Jan 2009, accepted on 10 Jul 2009 and first published on 03 Sep 2009

Article type: Paper
DOI: 10.1039/B900441F
Citation: Soft Matter, 2009,5, 4185-4190
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    Reversible stress softening and stress recovery of cellulose networks

    F. G. Torres, O. P. Troncoso, D. Lopez, C. Grande and C. M. Gomez, Soft Matter, 2009, 5, 4185
    DOI: 10.1039/B900441F

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