Cutin and suberin are support polymers involved in waterproofing the leaves and fruits of higher plants, regulating the flow of nutrients among various plant organs, and minimizing the deleterious impact of microbial pathogens. Despite the complexity and intractable nature of these plant biopolyesters, their molecular structure and development are amenable to study by suitable solid-state and solution-state NMR techniques. Interactions of tomato cutin with water were examined by solid-state 2H and 13C NMR, showing that water films enhance rapid segmental motions of the acyl chains and are associated with a fivefold increase in surface elasticity upon cutin hydration. The suberization of wounded potato tissues was studied by solid-state 13C NMR, revealing the likely phenylpropanoid structures that permit dense cross-linking of the suberin structure and their proximity to the cell-wall polysaccharides. Finally, two new approaches were developed to elucidate the molecular structures of these biopolymers: partial depolymerization followed by spectroscopic analysis of the soluble oligomers; and swelling of the intact materials followed by magic-angle spinning (MAS) NMR analysis.
- Swelled polymers