PLOS ONE, vol.8, no.2, 2013 (SCI-Expanded)
Cotton fiber is an important natural textile fiber due to its exceptional length and thickness. These properties arise largely through primary and secondary cell wall synthesis. The cotton fiber of commerce is a cellulosic secondary wall surrounded by a thin cuticulated primary wall, but there were only sparse details available about the polysaccharides in the fiber cell wall of any cotton species. In addition, Gossypium hirsutum (Gh) fiber was known to have an adhesive cotton fiber middle lamella (CFML) that joins adjacent fibers into tissue-like bundles, but it was unknown whether a CFML existed in other commercially important cotton fibers. We compared the cell wall chemistry over the time course of fiber development in Gh and Gossypium barbadense (Gb), the two most important commercial cotton species, when plants were grown in parallel in a highly controlled greenhouse. Under these growing conditions, the rate of early fiber elongation and the time of onset of secondary wall deposition were similar in fibers of the two species, but as expected the Gb fiber had a prolonged elongation period and developed higher quality compared to Gh fiber. The Gb fibers had a CFML, but it was not directly required for fiber elongation because Gb fiber continued to elongate rapidly after CFML hydrolysis. For both species, fiber at seven ages was extracted with four increasingly strong solvents, followed by analysis of cell wall matrix polysaccharide epitopes using antibody-based Glycome Profiling. Together with immunohistochemistry of fiber cross-sections, the data show that the CFML of Gb fiber contained lower levels of xyloglucan compared to Gh fiber. Xyloglucan endo-hydrolase activity was also higher in Gb fiber. In general, the data provide a rich picture of the similarities and differences in the cell wall structure of the two most important commercial cotton species.