Directors Seminar: A journey into the world of Eukaryotic cell walls: structure and biosynthesis of essential polysaccharides

Eukaryotic cell walls are complex matrices that largely consist of polysaccharides. Despite strong differences in molecular composition and architecture across taxonomic groups, cell walls exert similar functions regardless of the type of organism considered. The biosynthesis of cell wall polysaccharides is one of the most important biochemical processes in plant biology and microbiology and are essential for normal development of plant cells, fungi and other eukaryotic microorganisms. Our recent and current research efforts will be illustrated by the use of multidisciplinary approaches, including determination of cell wall composition and polysaccharide structure, biochemistry of membrane-bound proteins, in vitro synthesis of carbohydrate polymers and their characterization with chemical and biophysical methods, and functional characterization of recombinant carbohydrate synthases from plants and pathogenic oomycetes. The limitations of these approaches will be discussed together with possible strategies to better understand the biosynthesis of microfibrillar cell wall polysaccharides in eukaryotic cells and their assembly.       
Professor Vincent Bulone is the Director of the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence in Plant Cell Walls headquartered at the University of Adelaide. He is also the Director of Adelaide Glycomics, an analytical centre for complex carbohydrates recently established in collaboration with Agilent Technologies Australia Pty Ltd, and Director of the Global Institute for Traditional Chinese Medicine. He will also act as the Director of his recently granted Research Conosrtium Program for Agricultural Product Development supported by the South Australia Department for Industry and Skills, focusing on the conversion of agricultural waste into high-value products. His research is focused in various areas of Glycoscience, comprising fundamental research on plants and microorganisms, as well as biotechnological developments towards carbohydrate-based products. Vincent is the founder of the spin-out company CarbOzide Pty Ltd in Adelaide. The company exploits his recent invention on UV protective materials based on carbohydrates and natural molecular sunscreens from algae.