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Spontaneous rearrangement of acetylated xylan on hydrophilic cellulose surfaces...

by Madhulika Gupta, Takat B Rawal, Paul Dupree, Jeremy C Smith, Loukas Petridis
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The interaction of xylan, an abundant plant polysaccharide, with cellulose microfibrils is essential for secondary cell wall strength. A deeper understanding of these interactions is crucial both to improve our understanding of plant cell wall architecture and to design alternate strategies to overcome cellulose recalcitrance for the production of biofuels and sustainable biomaterials. Naturally occurring acetate or glucuronic acid substitutions on xylan have been shown to influence xylan-cellulose interactions. Here, we use unrestrained molecular dynamics simulations to determine the interactions with the (110) hydrophilic face of cellulose fibers of four different xylans. In the absence of cellulose, all xylans, independent of the substitution pattern, adopt a highly flexible threefold helical screw conformation. However, when xylan is spatially close to a cellulose surface 1,2 linked acetyl xylans (2AcX) adopt rigid twofold helical screw conformations. The 2AcX conformations are primarily stabilized by interactions between the acetylated oxygen and the glycosidic linkage with C-O6 of cellulose. In contrast, the glycosidic oxygens and acetyl decorations for 1,3 linked acetyl groups (3AcX) are oriented away from the cellulose surface and the 3AcX xylans maintain threefold helical screw conformations on the cellulose surface. Our results show that evenly spaced chemical functionalization (with acetyl groups) and the position of substitution (1,2) on xylan backbone play key roles in tuning the xylan-cellulose interactions to stabilize the twofold helical screw conformations of xylan on the cellulose surface. A comparison with previous experimental findings further suggests that 1,2 substitutions induce twofold helical screw conformations of xylan on the cellulose surface irrespective of the chemical nature of the substituent, while 1,3 substitutions primarily bind lignin in threefold helical screw conformations rather than cellulose in plant cell walls.