Molecular Advent Day 16: Cellulose

“Lets increase the visibility Of abstract concepts”

As promised Dominique Skinner is back with more glucose – well, sort of – read on to find out more….

Imagine living a day without any bones in your body, tricky right? All vertebrates in the animal kingdom have a back bone to provide support and structure to the body, but what about the other plants and animals?

Imagining a human without bones is like imagining a plant without cellulose.

When learning the difference between animal cells and plant cells we often remember that plants have a cell wall where as animal cells have a cell membrane. Plants have no bones and therefore rely on the strength and support of their cell walls to give structure. These cell walls are made of cellulose.

Cellulose is insoluble, otherwise when rain falls the walls would act like bath bombs, dissolve and no structure would remain. It is also stronger than steel wire of the same diameter because of different types of bonds that cross link.

FLASHBACK!

Yesterday I said that there were two types of glucose; alpha glucose and beta glucose. Cellulose is made solely from beta glucose. Beta glucose bonds together in a chain where each alternate glucose molecule is performing a handstand (it flips 180 degrees). Cellulose is therefore a gymnast; incredibly strong and half the time standing on its head. This strength also allows plant cells to fill with water and become turgid; just like filling a balloon to its maximum. A full balloon is always better than a deflated one and for plants it’s just the same; they prefer to be turgid as this, like cellulose, provides structure for the plant.

cellulose-1

cellulose-2

Source: https://internalandexternalenvironments2012.wikispaces.com/Hypertonic,+hypotonic+and+isotonic+effects+on+plants+and+animal+cells.?responseToken=0a2c7cef966093393863b935ea39a9dff

It’s also worth mentioning that some plant cells (meristem) don’t have cell walls as they impede cell division within the plant and without some cells dividing and specialising the plant wouldn’t grow. I should also give a worthy mention to cytoskeleton within animal cells that provide structure and create that ‘circular shape’ we all know and love.

So if you happen to go ice skating this festive season, be careful not to break a bone as you might just wish you were made with cellulose instead.