Carbotrace-like molecules allow highly detailed visualization of cellulose in plant cells

If you always wondered why it is so difficult to switch to plants for producing renewable resources and how Carbotrace can help in the process, the video from Ben@SwedishMedicalNanoscienceCenter explains: "The complicated thing about plants and biofuels."

A study from 2018 published in Nature Scientific Reports used a Carbotrace-like molecule to visualize the location and structure of cellulose in plant cells. Applying the molecule to thin slices of onion in a simple procedure resulted in highly fluorescent cell walls and allowed to obtain detailed 3D visualization of perforated sieve plates and plasmodesmata in onion cells. The fluorescence of chlorophyll containing chloroblasts and lignin structures were easily distinguished from the fluorescent Carbotrace-like molecule. The researchers found that the molecule bound with a high specificity to β-linked glucans (polysaccharides derived from glucose) with a degree of polymerization > 8. Thus β-linked glucans like cellulose and laminarin were clearly distinguished from α-linked glucans like amylose, amylopectin, glycogen or dextran. For the first time, non-disruptive carbohydrate analysis of glucans can be performed using a specific fluorescent label for β-linked glucans. Many β-linked glucans are medically important and represent drug-targets for antifungal medications. Moreover, extraction techniques for renewable resources rely heavily on the chemical composition of their raw materials. Therefore, Carbotrace and Carbotrace-like molecules represent a quantum leap for bio-refinery of renewable resources and bio-fuels from plant-derived materials.

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