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Keywords:

  • Alcian Blue;
  • fibrillar cell wall deposits;
  • pectin;
  • poplar (Populus trichocarpa, Populus nigra × P. maximwiczii, Populus trichocarpa × P. koreana);
  • radial water diffusion;
  • xylem fibres

Abstract

Using light and electron microscopic techniques, we studied the unique occurrence of fibrillar cell wall deposits in mature xylem fibres from poplar. These cell wall deposits lined the lumen-facing side of the wall, mainly in fibres next to vessel elements. Different lines of evidence point to the pectin-like nature of these fibrillar cell wall deposits. First, specific staining by Alcian Blue 8GX, a dye with high affinity for pectic substances. Second, the strongly reduced staining of the cell wall deposits in microscopic sections treated with pectolytic enzyme. Third, concomitant staining of pits, which are known to consist mainly of pectic substances. Given the pectin-like nature of the fibrillar cell wall deposits as well as their preferred occurrence in fibres neighbouring water-conducting vessel elements, a function for the fibrillar cell wall deposits in lateral water diffusion and stem water storage is hypothesised. The hypothesis is supported by the increased abundance of these cell wall deposits in wood tissue of a drought-sensitive poplar species.