* To whom correspondence should be addressed.
Received February 19, 2013; Revision received March 5, 2013
Plant polysaccharides comprise the major portion of organic matter in the biosphere. The cell wall built on the basis of polysaccharides is the key feature of a plant organism largely determining its biology. All together, around 10 types of polysaccharide backbones, which can be decorated by different substituents giving rise to endless diversity of carbohydrate structures, are present in cell walls of higher plants. Each of the numerous cell types present in plants has cell wall with specific parameters, the features of which mostly arise from the structure of polymeric components. The structure of polysaccharides is not directly encoded by the genome and has variability in many parameters (molecular weight, length, and location of side chains, presence of modifying groups, etc.). The extent of such variability is limited by the “functional fitting” of the polymer, which is largely based on spatial organization of the polysaccharide and its ability to form supramolecular complexes of an appropriate type. Consequently, the carrier of the functional specificity is not the certain molecular structure but the certain type of the molecules having a certain degree of heterogeneity. This review summarizes the data on structural features of plant cell wall polysaccharides, considers formation of supramolecular complexes, gives examples of tissue- and stage-specific polysaccharides and functionally significant carbohydrate–carbohydrate interactions in plant cell wall, and presents approaches to analyze the spatial structure of polysaccharides and their complexes.
KEY WORDS: higher plants, cell wall, polysaccharides, spatial structure, cellulose, xylan, rhamnogalacturonan I