Herman HÖFTE Senior Scientist

Primary Cell Wall

We study the cellular machinery underlying the synthesis and assembly of cellulose microfibrils. We also study matrix polysaccharides, with an emphasis on pectins, which are polymers the charge density of which is enzymatically regulated in the cell wall and which control changes in the hydration and rheology of the cell wall that are critical for growth control. Finally, we investigate the feedback mechanisms that control the integrity of the growing cell wall.  

Over the years we came to realize how 500 million years of evolution have led to the fine-tuning of polymer assemblies in the cell walls, often with remarkable emergent properties. To understand the structure-function relationship of cell wall polymers we use a multidisciplinary approach involving molecular genetics, cell biology, mechanics and polymer physics. Knowledge on assembly of cell wall polymers is not only relevant for understanding and predictive modeling of plant growth and morphogenesis, but also for lignocellulosic biomass utilization and as inspiration for the conception of new nanomaterials.   For more details visit the webpage of the Primary Cell Wall team.

Another area of interest is how to use our knowledge on plant cell walls to contribute to the emergence of a bioeconomy based on renewable resources. In this context our aim is to contribute to the development of sustainable lignocellulosic feedstocks. Perennial grasses such as miscanthus are ideal crops for biomass production given their high yield and small environmental footprint. Over the last 8 years I have been coordinating the “Investissements d’Avenir” projet “Biomass For the Future”. A multi-displinary, multi-sector project aimed at developing new sorghum and miscanthus varieties but also to contribute to the development of new local value-chains for bio-energy and –materials (

Herman Höfte


Primary Cell Wall