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The syntheses of pure RG-I fragments of key plant matrix biomolecule pectin using a counterintuitive late-stage convergent cis-glycosylation has allowed detailed analyses of their solution-phase conformations, metal binding affinities, pK(a) values, self-assembly equilibria, and diffusional kinetics. These reveal a striking, right-handed 3(1)-helix that provides an effective and repeating lateral display of putative liganding carboxylates. Moreover, these heteropolymeric structures allow units as short as tetrasaccharides to self-assemble through carbohydrate-carbohydrate interactions that are induced by the presence of Ca(II), a known dynamic trigger in planta. These self-assembly properties can be switched simply by the addition or removal of a single methyl group in this repeating unit through methyl (de)esterification, another known dynamic trigger in planta. Together, the combined effect of Ca(II) and methylation revealed here suggests a concerted molecular basis for these two major dynamic modifications in planta.

Original publication




Journal article


J Am Chem Soc

Publication Date





7238 - 7239


Molecular Conformation, Pectins, Plants