Pectic polysaccharides from the roots of cucumber (Cucumis sativus L.) grown in liquid culture medium with or without calcium (1 mM CaCl2) were studied after extraction successively by hot water and Na hexametaphosphate solution. The Ca2+ starvation-treatment caused a striking reduction in content ofextracted pectic polysaccharide; from an equivalent weight of cell walls, only 33.1% of the control level was extracted from root cell walls of plants cultured under Ca2+ deficiency. The extracted pectic polysaccharides were fractionated into neutral and acidic polymers by a DEAE-Sephadex column. The acidic polymers, which represented more than 76% of the yield, appeared to be a major fraction of extracted pectic polysaccharides. The changes of molecular size and glycosyl residue composition of this fraction were compared for the control and Ca2+-deprived samples. The results indicate that Ca2+ deficiency caused structural changes which could involve both branching pattern and extent of contiguous galacturonosyl units in the water-solubilized pectic polysacchardes. Ca2+ starvation also led to a notable decrease in molecular size of the hexametaphosphate-solubilized polysaccharides and, to a lesser extent, of the water-solubilized fraction as well. In addition, polygalacturonaw activity in tissue homogenates increased remarkably with the Ca2+ deficiency, whereas β-galactosidase activity did not undergo a change. Thus, it appears that one major effect of Ca2+ deprivation was to stimulate polygalacturonase activity, an effect which could be involved in the control of the breakdown of pectic polysaccharides in the cell walls.
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