Arabinogalactan-proteins of Zostera marina L. contain unique glycan structures and provide insight into adaption processes to saline environments
Seagrasses evolved from monocotyledonous land plants that returned to the marine habitat. This transition was accomplished by substantial changes in cell wall composition, revealing habitat-driven adaption to the new environment. Whether arabinogalactan-proteins (AGPs), important signalling molecules of land plants, are present in seagrass cell walls is of evolutionary and plant development interest. AGPs of Zostera marina L. were isolated and structurally characterised by analytical and bioinformatics methods as well as by ELISA with different anti-AGP antibodies. Calcium-binding capacity of AGPs was studied by isothermal titration calorimetry (ITC) and microscopy. Bioinformatic searches of the Z. marina proteome identified 9 classical AGPs and a large number of chimeric AGPs. The glycan structures exhibit unique features, including a high degree of branching and an unusually high content of terminating 4-O-methyl-glucuronic acid (4-OMe GlcA) residues. Although the common backbone structure of land plant AGPs is conserved in Z. marina, the terminating residues are distinct with high amounts of uronic acids. These differences likely result from the glycan-active enzymes (glycosyltransferases and methyltransferases) and are essential for calcium-binding properties. The role of this polyanionic surface is discussed with regard to adaption to the marine environment.