The structure and material properties of growing and fleshy plant tissues are determined by their (primary) cell walls. The biological requirement in growing tissues for cell walls to combine structural strength with flexibility and extensibility is met through a network of cellulose fibres in a hydrogel form that is modified by the presence of other polysaccharides. From direct measurement on isolated plant cell walls and using a model bacterial cellulose hydrogel system, the molecular rules governing the association of non-cellulosic polysaccharides with cellulose fibres have been deduced. The effects of various features of cell wall hydrogels on the characteristic material properties under small deformation, compression and extension have been characterized and rationalized. Consequences for plant material properties and plant food behaviour in the digestive tract will be discussed.
Professor Mike Gidley is Director of the Centre for Nutrition and Food Sciences (CNAFS) in QAAFI. Prof Gidley’s career includes 22 years in food R&D in the private sector and the last 13 years at UQ in the Centre for Nutrition and Food Sciences.
Research themes within CNAFS include ‘Smart Selections’ (how to identify the right combinations of raw materials and processing to deliver consumer-preferred foods), ‘Naturally Nutritious’ (maximising the intrinsic nutritional properties of agricultural products in foods and ingredients) and ‘Uniquely Australian’ (identifying and validating opportunities for elite products from foods and ingredients that can only have come from Australia).
Prof Gidley’s own research is focussed on structure – function relationships in important food components such as starch granules and plant cell walls. This has led to the detailed characterisation of starch and dietary fibre digestion/fermentation in vitro and in vivo, with the understanding generated leading to opportunities for optimising nutritional value of foods and feeds. He is a Program Leader in the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence in Plant Cell Walls (2011-2017)
About QAAFI Science Seminar Series
Queensland Alliance for Agriculture & Food Innovation (QAAFI) has been hosting a high-profile weekly seminar series across the disciplines of agriculture, food and nutrition science since 2014. With a range of speakers from Australia and abroad, the series explores how high-impact science will significantly improve the competitiveness and sustainability of the tropical and sub-tropical food, fibre and agribusiness sectors.