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Cellulose, the most abundant biopolymer on earth, is a versatile, energy rich material found in the cell walls of plants, bacteria, algae, and tunicates. It is well established that cellulose is crystalline, although the orientational order of cellulose crystallites normal to the plane of the cell wall has not been characterized. A preferred orientational alignment of cellulose crystals could be an important determinant of the mechanical properties of the cell wall and of cellulose-cellulose and cellulose-matrix interactions. Here, the crystalline structures of cellulose in primary cell walls of onion (Allium cepa), the model eudicot Arabidopsis (Arabidopsis thaliana), and moss (Physcomitrella patens) were examined through grazing incidence wide angle X-ray scattering (GIWAXS). We find that GIWAXS can decouple diffraction from cellulose and epicuticular wax crystals in cell walls. Pole figures constructed from a combination of GIWAXS and X-ray rocking scans reveal that cellulose crystals have a preferred crystallographic orientation with the (200) and (110)/(110) planes preferentially stacked parallel to the cell wall. This orientational ordering of cellulose crystals, termed texturing in materials science, represents a previously unreported measure of cellulose organization and contradicts the predominant hypothesis of twisting of microfibrils in plant primary cell walls.

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.