New dynamic computer models of the plant cell wall

July 20, 2015

Filed under: — dmathew @ 11:55 am

Building on the collaboration between IBM Research – Australia and its University of Melbourne node, the ARC Centre of Excellence in Plant Cell Walls used IBM’s specialised computational skills to provide ground-breaking insights into cell wall structure.

Multi-nodal teams used the supercomputer of the Victorian Life Sciences Computation Initiative (VLSCI) to improve understanding of how the construction of cell wall polysaccharides and their assembly into walls generates a ‘dynamic composite’ that fulfils different functions. The wall must act as a structurally rigid skeleton that enables plants to grow to great heights, but must also be sufficiently flexible to allow tissues to develop into a mature shape. Cell walls also sense the external environment, responding to biological and physical stresses.

The projects with IBM focussed on the development of a 3D dynamic computational model of the plant’s wall as a tool for future research initiatives. The model predicts interactions with the plasma membrane and cytoskeleton at the molecular scale (individual cellulose microfibrils) and at coarse-grained levels (composites of microfibrils).

Other projects are using molecular simulations to develop computational models of the polysaccharide synthases that assemble major wall polysaccharides.