Diffusion of macromolecules in self-assembled cellulose/hemicellulose hydrogels
Journal article, 2015
Cellulose hydrogels are extensively applied in many biotechnological fields and are also used as models for plant cell walls. We synthesised model cellulosic hydrogels containing hemicelluloses, as a biomimetic of plant cell walls, in order to study the role of hemicelluloses on their mass transport properties. Microbial cellulose is able to self-assemble into composites when hemicelluloses, such as xyloglucan and arabinoxylan, are present in the incubation media, leading to hydrogels with different nano and microstructures. We investigated the diffusivities of a series of fluorescently labelled dextrans, of different molecular weight, and proteins, including a plant pectin methyl esterase (PME), using fluorescence recovery after photobleaching (FRAP). The presence of xyloglucan, known to be able to crosslink cellulose fibres, confirmed by scanning electron microscopy (SEM) and C-13 NMR, reduced mobility of macromolecules of molecular weight higher than 10 kDa, reflected in lower diffusion coefficients. Furthermore PME diffusion was reduced in composites containing xyloglucan, despite the lack of a particular binding motif in PME for this polysaccharide, suggesting possible non-specific interactions between PME and this hemicellulose. In contrast, hydrogels containing arabinoxylan coating cellulose fibres showed enhanced diffusivity of the molecules studied. The different diffusivities were related to the architectural features found in the composites as a function of polysaccharide composition. Our results show the effect of model hemicelluloses in the mass transport properties of cellulose networks in highly hydrated environments relevant to understanding the role of hemicelluloses in the permeability of plant cell walls and aiding design of plant based materials with tailored properties.