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cell wall(sel wawl)
cell walla thick, rigid coat formed outside the CELL MEMBRANE of plants, fungi and most bacteria. The cell wall is responsible for the shape of the organism and for protecting internal parts of the cell from damage. The plant cell wall is composed mainly of CELLULOSE secreted by the protoplasm of the cell. Structurally it consists of cellulose fibres embedded in a matrix of pectin and other polysaccharides, rather like fibreglass. Each fibre is built up from cellulose molecules which form strands called micelles. These are grouped into microfibrils, several hundred of which form a fibre. Older cells may also produce a secondary wall inside the primary wall which is thicker and contains LIGNIN for extra strength. Such cells often die after producing the secondary wall, e.g. XYLEM vessel cells.
The cell wall of BACTERIA is made of PEPTIDOGLYCAN, either alone or combined with other substances, and is used to differentiate the major types of bacteria: Gram-positive and Gram-negative (see GRAM'S STAIN). In Gram-positive bacteria, the wall generally consists of many layers of peptidoglycan, giving a very rigid structure. TEICHOIC ACIDS are also present. In Gram-negative bacteria there is a thin layer of peptidoglycan and an outer membrane. The peptidoglycan is attached to LIPOPROTEINS in the outer membrane. This membrane acts as a barrier to some ANTIBIOTICS, ENZYMES and so on; however, certain substances, such as nutrients, pass through. Part of the permeability of the membrane is due to PORINS. The ARCHAEA either lack cell walls or have unusual walls without peptidoglycan. In FUNGI a key component of most cell walls is CHITIN. The cell walls of YEASTS contain glucan and mannan. There may be additional layers, such as a CAPSULE, outside the cell wall.