Background and aims Cell wall disassembly occurs naturally in plants by the action of several glycosyl-hydrolases during different developmental processes such as lysigenous and constitutive aerenchyma formation in sugarcane roots. Wall degradation has been reported in aerenchyma development in different species, but little is known about the action of glycosyl-hydrolases in this process. Methods In this work, gene expression, protein levels, and enzymatic activity of cell wall hydrolases were assessed. Since aerenchyma formation is constitutive in sugarcane roots, they were assessed in segments corresponding to the first 5 cm from the root tip where aerenchyma develops. Key results Our results indicate that the wall degradation starts with a partial attack to pectins (by acetyl esterases, endopolygalacturonases, β-galactosidases, and α-arabinofuranosidases) followed by the action of β-glucan/callose hydrolyzing enzymes. At the same time, there are modifications in arabinoxylan (by α-arabinofuranosidases), xyloglucan (by XTH), xyloglucan-cellulose interactions (by expansins), and partial hydrolysis of cellulose. Saccharification revealed that access to the cell wall varies among segments, consistent with an increase in recalcitrance and composite formation during aerenchyma development. Conclusion Our findings corroborate the hypothesis that hydrolases are synchronically synthesized leading to cell wall modifications that are modulated by the fine structure of cell wall polymers during aerenchyma formation in the cortex of sugarcane roots.
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