We have identified a wall hydrolytic enzyme from Trichoderma reesei with potent ability to induce extension of heat-inactivated type I cell walls. It is a small (23-kD) endo-1,4-β-glucanase (Cel12A) belonging to glycoside hydrolase family 12. Extension of heat-inactivated walls from cucumber (Cucumis sativus cv Burpee Pickler) hypocotyls was induced by Cel12A after a distinct lag time and was accompanied by a large increase in wall plasticity and elasticity. Cel12A also increased the rate of stress relaxation of isolated walls at very short times (<200 ms; equivalent to reducing t0, a parameter that estimates the minimum relaxation time). Similar changes in wall plasticity and elasticity were observed in wheat (Triticum aestivum cv Pennmore Winter) coleoptile (type II) walls, which showed only a negligible extension in response to Cel12A treatment. Thus, Cel12A modifies both type I and II walls, but substantial extension is found only in type I walls. Cel12A has strong endo-glucanase activity against xyloglucan and (1→3,1→4)-β-glucan, but did not exhibit endo-xylanase, endo-mannase, or endo-galactanase activities. In terms of kinetics of action and effects on wall rheology, wall loosening by Cel12A differs qualitatively from the action by expansins, which induce wall extension by a non-hydrolytic polymer creep mechanism. The action by Cel12A mimics some of the changes in wall rheology found after auxin-induced growth. The strategy used here to identify Cel12A could be used to identify analogous plant enzymes that cause auxin-induced changes in cell wall rheology
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