Polarization confocal microscopy and Congo Red fluorescence: a simple and rapid method to determine the mean cellulose fibril orientation in plants


Verbelen Tel: + 32 3820 22 77; fax: + 32 3820 22 71; e-mail: verbelen@uia.ua.ac.be


The mean or net preferential orientation of cellulose fibrils in plant cell walls is detected with polarization confocal laser scanning microscopy using the fluorescence dichroism of Congo Red. Single cells, arrays of cells in a tissue, or the epidermis of whole organs can be assayed in vivo. Aerial parts require an extra pectinase treatment because of the cuticle, which is impermeable to aqueous solutions. Peeling off the epidermis can be an elegant alternative, especially for leaves. With this method the net preferential fibril orientation can be related to the symmetry axis of the cell in quantitative terms. Data issuing from this approach are useful in current research on plant biomechanics.