The Plant Fiber Team undertakes research on the formation, modification and degradation of the plant cell wall. This complex and fascinating structure has been exploited by humans, animals and other eukaryotes/prokaryotes for many millions of years and is intimately associated with the emergence of plant life from the sea and the conquest of dry land. It is the cell wall that constitutes the first point of contact between the plant and the surrounding environment and it therefore plays a key role in protecting plants against both stress and pathogens. The plant cell wall is responsible for the structural properties of wood, paper, composites and textiles and plays a key role in human and animal health as dietary fibers. The cell wall is also an important source of renewable energy that can be burnt or transformed into bioethanol and biogas.
The behaviour (mechanical and chemical properties, defence response, sugar release etc.) of plant cell walls is heavily influenced by the nature and the relative amounts of the different polymers (cellulose, hemicelluloses, pectins, proteins and lignins) making up the cell wall structure. In our team we are mainly studying the cell walls in flax (Linum usitatissimum L.). This plant that has been cultivated for many thousands of years to produce bast fibers and/or linseed oil contains highly contrasted cell wall types and is therefore an excellent model system to study the biology of the plant cell wall.