The cuticle is a waxy composite that protects the aerial organs of land plans from non-stomatal water loss. The chemical make-up of the cuticular wax mixture plays a central role in defining the water barrier, but structure-function relationships have not been established so far, in part due to gaps in our understanding of wax structures and biosynthesis. While wax compounds with saturated, linear hydrocarbon tails have been investigated in detail, very little is known about compounds with modified aliphatic tails, which comprise substantial portions of some plant wax mixtures. This study aimed to investigate the structures, abundances and biosynthesis of branched compounds on the species for which wax biosynthesis is best understood: Arabidopsis thaliana. Microscale derivatization, mass spectral interpretation and organic synthesis identified homologous series of iso-alkanes and iso-alcohols on flowers and leaves, respectively. These comprised approximately 10-15% of wild type wax mixtures. The abundances of both branched wax constituents and accompanying unbranched compounds were reduced on the cer6, cer3 and cer1 mutants but not cer4, indicating that branched compounds are in part synthesized by the same machinery as unbranched compounds. In contrast, the abundances of unbranched, but not branched, wax constituents were reduced on the cer2 and cer26 mutants, suggesting that the pathways to both types of compounds deviate in later steps of chain elongation. Finally, the abundances of branched, but not unbranched, wax compounds were reduced on the cer16 mutant, and the (uncharacterized) CER16 protein may therefore be controlling the relative abundances of iso-alkanes and iso-alcohols on Arabidopsis surfaces.
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© The Author 2017. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of Japanese Society of Plant Physiologists. All rights reserved.
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- Cuticular wax
- Gas chromatography
- Structure elucidation
- Wax mutant