Plant polysaccharides (cellulose, hemicellulose, pectin, starch) are either direct (i.e. leaf starch) or indirect products of photosynthesis, and they belong to the most abundant organic compounds in nature. Although each of these polymers is made by a specific enzymatic machinery, frequently in different cell locations, details of their synthesis share certain common features. Thus, the production of these polysaccharides is preceded by the formation of nucleotide sugars catalyzed by fully reversible reactions of various enzymes, mostly pyrophosphorylases. These ‘buffering’ enzymes are, generally, quite active and operate close to equilibrium. The nucleotide sugars are then used as substrates for irreversible reactions of various polysaccharide-synthesizing glycosyltransferases (‘engine’ enzymes), e.g. plastidial starch synthases, or plasma membrane-bound cellulose synthase and callose synthase, or ER/Golgi-located variety of glycosyltransferases forming hemicellulose and pectin backbones. Alternatively, the irreversible step might also be provided by a carrier transporting a given immediate precursor across a membrane. Here, we argue that local equilibria, established within metabolic pathways and cycles resulting in polysaccharide production, bring stability to the system via the arrangement of a flexible supply of nucleotide sugars. This metabolic system is itself under control of adenylate kinase and nucleoside-diphosphate kinase, which determine the availability of nucleotides (adenylates, uridylates, guanylates and cytidylates) and Mg2+, the latter serving as a feedback signal from the nucleotide metabolome. Under these conditions, the supply of nucleotide sugars to engine enzymes is stable and constant, and the metabolic process becomes optimized in its load and consumption, making the system steady and self-regulated.

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