A cell wall is a structural layer surrounding some types of cells, situated outside the cell membrane. It can be tough, flexible, and sometimes rigid and it provides the cell with both structural support and protection, and also acts as a filtering mechanism. Cell walls are present in most prokaryotes, in algae, plants and fungi, a major function is to act as pressure vessels, preventing over-expansion of the cell when water enters. The composition of cell walls varies between species and may depend on type and developmental stage. The primary cell wall of plants is composed of the polysaccharides cellulose, hemicellulose. Often, other such as lignin, suberin or cutin are anchored to or embedded in plant cell walls. Algae possess walls made of glycoproteins and polysaccharides such as carrageenan, in bacteria, the cell wall is composed of peptidoglycan. The cell walls of archaea have various compositions, and may be formed of glycoprotein S-layers, pseudopeptidoglycan, Fungi possess cell walls made of the glucosamine polymer chitin. Unusually, diatoms have a wall composed of biogenic silica. A plant cell wall was first observed and named by Robert Hooke in 1665, in 1804, Karl Rudolphi and J. H. F. Link proved that cells had independent cell walls, before, it had been thought that cells shared walls and that fluid passed between them this way. The mode of formation of the wall was controversial in the 19th century. Hugo von Mohl advocated the idea that the wall grows by apposition. Carl Nägeli believed that the growth of the wall in thickness, each theory was improved in the following decades, the apposition theory by Eduard Strasburger, and the intussusception theory by Julius Wiesner. In 1930, Ernst Münch coined the term apoplast in order to separate the living symplast from the dead plant region, Cell walls serve similar purposes in those organisms that possess them. They may give cells rigidity and strength, offering protection against mechanical stress, in multicellular organisms, they permit the organism to build and hold a definite shape. Cell walls also limit the entry of large molecules that may be toxic to the cell and they further permit the creation of stable osmotic environments by preventing osmotic lysis and helping to retain water. Their composition, properties, and form may change during the cell cycle, in most cells, the cell wall is flexible, meaning that it will bend rather than holding a fixed shape, but has considerable tensile strength
Diagram of the plant cell, with the cell wall in green.
Photomicrograph of onion root cells, showing the centrifugal development of new cell walls (phragmoplast).
Cell wall in multicellular plants- its different layers and their placement with respect to protoplasm (highly diagrammatic)