Publications and Research

Document Type

Article

Publication Date

3-30-2012

Abstract

The cuticle, a hydrophobic protective layer on the aerial parts of terrestrial plants, functions as a versatile defensive barrier to various biotic and abiotic stresses and also regulates water flow from the external environment.1 A biopolyester (cutin) and long-chain fatty acids (waxes) form the principal structural framework of the cuticle; the functional integrity of the cuticular layer depends on the outer 'epicuticular' layer as well as the blend consisting of the cutin biopolymer and 'intracuticular' waxes.2 Herein, we describe a comprehensive protocol to extract waxes exhaustively from commercial tomato (Solanum lycopersicum) fruit cuticles or to remove epicuticular and intracuticular waxes sequentially and selectively from the cuticle composite. The method of Jetter and Schäffer (2001) was adapted for the stepwise extraction of epicuticular and intracuticular waxes from the fruit cuticle.3,4 To monitor the process of sequential wax removal, solid-state cross-polarization magic-angle-spinning (CPMAS) 13C NMR spectroscopy was used in parallel with atomic force microscopy (AFM), providing molecular-level structural profiles of the bulk materials complemented by information on the microscale topography and roughness of the cuticular surfaces. To evaluate the cross-linking capabilities of dewaxed cuticles from cultivated wild-type and single-gene mutant tomato fruits, MAS 13C NMR was used to compare the relative proportions of oxygenated aliphatic (CHO and CH2O) chemical moieties.

Exhaustive dewaxing by stepwise Soxhlet extraction with a panel of solvents of varying polarity provides an effective means to isolate wax moieties based on the hydrophobic characteristics of their aliphatic and aromatic constituents, while preserving the chemical structure of the cutin biopolyester. The mechanical extraction of epicuticular waxes and selective removal of intracuticular waxes, when monitored by complementary physical methodologies, provides an unprecedented means to investigate the cuticle assembly: this approach reveals the supramolecular organization and structural integration of various types of waxes, the architecture of the cutin-wax matrix, and the chemical composition of each constituent. In addition, solid-state 13C NMR reveals differences in the relative numbers of CHO and CH2O chemical moieties for wild-type and mutant red ripe tomato fruits. The NMR techniques offer exceptional tools to fingerprint the molecular structure of cuticular materials that are insoluble, amorphous, and chemically heterogeneous. As a noninvasive surface-selective imaging technique, AFM furnishes an effective and direct means to probe the structural organization of the cuticular assembly on the nm-μm length scale. The cuticle, a hydrophobic protective layer on the aerial parts of terrestrial plants, functions as a versatile defensive barrier to various biotic and abiotic stresses and also regulates water flow from the external environment. 1 A biopolyester (cutin) and long-chain fatty acids (waxes) form the principal structural framework of the cuticle; the functional integrity of the cuticular layer depends on the outer 'epicuticular' layer as well as the blend consisting of the cutin biopolymer and 'intracuticular' waxes. 2 Herein, we describe a comprehensive protocol to extract waxes exhaustively from commercial tomato ( Solanum lycopersicum ) fruit cuticles or to remove epicuticular and intracuticular waxes sequentially and selectively from the cuticle composite. The method of Jetter and Schäffer (2001) was adapted for the stepwise extraction of epicuticular and intracuticular waxes from the fruit cuticle. 3,4 To monitor the process of sequential wax removal, solid-state cross-polarization magic-angle-spinning (CPMAS) 13 C NMR spectroscopy was used in parallel with atomic force microscopy (AFM), providing molecular-level structural profiles of the bulk materials complemented by information on the microscale topography and roughness of the cuticular surfaces. To evaluate the cross-linking capabilities of dewaxed cuticles from cultivated wild-type and single-gene mutant tomato fruits, MAS 13 C NMR was used to compare the relative proportions of oxygenated aliphatic (CHO and CH 2 O) chemical moieties.

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