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1.  A rapid decrease in temperature induces latewood formation in artificially reactivated cambium of conifer stems 
Annals of Botany  2012;110(4):875-885.
Background and Aims
Latewood formation in conifers occurs during the later part of the growing season, when the cell division activity of the cambium declines. Changes in temperature might be important for wood formation in trees. Therefore, the effects of a rapid decrease in temperature on cellular morphology of tracheids were investigated in localized heating-induced cambial reactivation in Cryptomeria japonica trees and in Abies firma seedlings.
Electric heating tape and heating ribbon were wrapped on the stems of C. japonica trees and A. firma seedlings. Heating was discontinued when 11 or 12 and eight or nine radial files of differentiating and differentiated tracheids had been produced in C. japonica and A. firma stems, respectively. Tracheid diameter, cell wall thickness, percentage of cell wall area and percentage of lumen area were determined by image analysis of transverse sections and scanning electron microscopy.
Key Results
Localized heating induced earlier cambial reactivation and xylem differentiation in stems of C. japonica and A. firma as compared with non-heated stems. One week after cessation of heating, there were no obvious changes in the dimensions of the differentiating tracheids in the samples from adult C. japonica. In contrast, tracheids with a smaller diameter were observed in A. firma seedlings after 1 week of cessation of heating. Two or three weeks after cessation of heating, tracheids with reduced diameters and thickened cell walls were found. The results showed that the rapid decrease in temperature produced slender tracheids with obvious thickening of cell walls that resembled latewood cells.
The results suggest that a localized decrease in temperature of stems induces changes in the diameter and cell wall thickness of differentiating tracheids, indicating that cambium and its derivatives can respond directly to changes in temperature.
PMCID: PMC3423807  PMID: 22843340
Cambial activity; conifers; latewood formation; morphology of tracheids; rapid decrease in temperature
2.  Hydraulic and mechanical properties of young Norway spruce clones related to growth and wood structure 
Tree physiology  2007;27(8):1165-1178.
Stem segments of eight five-year-old Norway spruce (Picea abies (L.) Karst.) clones differing in growth characteristics were tested for maximum specific hydraulic conductivity (ks100), vulnerability to cavitation and behavior under mechanical stress. The vulnerability of the clones to cavitation was assessed by measuring the applied air pressure required to cause 12 and 50% loss of conductivity (Ψ12, Ψ50) and the percent loss of conductivity at 4 MPa applied air pressure (PLC4MPa). The bending strength and stiffness and the axial compression strength and stiffness of the same stem segments were measured to characterize wood mechanical properties. Growth ring width, wood density, latewood percentage, lumen diameter, cell wall thickness, tracheid length and pit dimensions of earlywood cells, spiral grain and microfibril angles were examined to identify structure–function relationships. High ks100 was strongly and positively related to spiral grain angle, which corresponded positively to tracheid length and pit dimensions. Spiral grain may reduce flow resistance of the bordered pits of the first earlywood tracheids, which are characterized by rounded tips and an equal distribution of pits along the entire length. Wood density was unrelated to hydraulic vulnerability parameters. Traits associated with higher hydraulic vulnerability were long tracheids, high latewood percentage and thick earlywood cell walls. The positive relationship between earlywood cell wall thickness and vulnerability to cavitation suggest that air seeding through the margo of bordered pits may occur in earlywood. There was a positive phenotypic and genotypic relationship between ks100 and PLC4MPa, and both parameters were positively related to tree growth rate. Variability in mechanical properties depended mostly on wood density, but also on the amount of compression wood. Accordingly, hydraulic conductivity and mechanical strength or stiffness showed no tradeoff.
PMCID: PMC3197722  PMID: 17472942
biomechanics; functional anatomy; hydraulic conductivity; Picea abies; tradeoffs; vulnerability to cavitation
3.  Effect of Local Heating and Cooling on Cambial Activity and Cell Differentiation in the Stem of Norway Spruce (Picea abies) 
Annals of Botany  2006;97(6):943-951.
• Background and Aims The effect of heating and cooling on cambial activity and cell differentiation in part of the stem of Norway spruce (Picea abies) was investigated.
• Methods A heating experiment (23–25 °C) was carried out in spring, before normal reactivation of the cambium, and cooling (9–11 °C) at the height of cambial activity in summer. The cambium, xylem and phloem were investigated by means of light- and transmission electron microscopy and UV-microspectrophotometry in tissues sampled from living trees.
• Key Results Localized heating for 10 d initiated cambial divisions on the phloem side and after 20 d also on the xylem side. In a control tree, regular cambial activity started after 30 d. In the heat-treated sample, up to 15 earlywood cells undergoing differentiation were found to be present. The response of the cambium to stem cooling was less pronounced, and no anatomical differences were detected between the control and cool-treated samples after 10 or 20 d. After 30 d, latewood started to form in the sample exposed to cooling. In addition, almost no radially expanding tracheids were observed and the cambium consisted of only five layers of cells. Low temperatures reduced cambial activity, as indicated by the decreased proportion of latewood. On the phloem side, no alterations were observed among cool-treated and non-treated samples.
• Conclusions Heating and cooling can influence cambial activity and cell differentiation in Norway spruce. However, at the ultrastructural and topochemical levels, no changes were observed in the pattern of secondary cell-wall formation and lignification or in lignin structure, respectively.
PMCID: PMC2803384  PMID: 16613904
Norway spruce; Picea abies; cambium; xylem; phloem; cell differentiation; heating; cooling; light microscopy; transmission electron microscopy; UV-microspectrophotometry
4.  Transcriptome profiling of radiata pine branches reveals new insights into reaction wood formation with implications in plant gravitropism 
BMC Genomics  2013;14(1):768.
Formation of compression (CW) and opposite wood (OW) in branches and bent trunks is an adaptive feature of conifer trees in response to various displacement forces, such as gravity, wind, snow and artificial bending. Several previous studies have characterized tracheids, wood and gene transcription in artificially or naturally bent conifer trunks. These studies have provided molecular basis of reaction wood formation in response to bending forces and gravity stimulus. However, little is known about reaction wood formation and gene transcription in conifer branches under gravity stress. In this study SilviScan® technology was used to characterize tracheid and wood traits in radiate pine (Pinus radiata D. Don) branches and genes differentially transcribed in CW and OW were investigated using cDNA microarrays.
CW drastically differed from OW in tracheids and wood traits with increased growth, thicker tracheid walls, larger microfibril angle (MFA), higher density and lower stiffness. However, CW and OW tracheids had similar diameters in either radial or tangential direction. Thus, gravity stress largely influenced wood growth, secondary wall deposition, cellulose microfibril orientation and wood properties, but had little impact on primary wall expansion. Microarray gene transcription revealed about 29% of the xylem transcriptomes were significantly altered in CW and OW sampled in both spring and autumn, providing molecular evidence for the drastic variation in tracheid and wood traits. Genes involved in cell division, cellulose biosynthesis, lignin deposition, and microtubules were mostly up-regulated in CW, conferring its greater growth, thicker tracheid walls, higher density, larger MFA and lower stiffness. However, genes with roles in cell expansion and primary wall formation were differentially transcribed in CW and OW, respectively, implicating their similar diameters of tracheid walls and different tracheid lengths. Interestingly, many genes related to hormone and calcium signalling as well as various environmental stresses were exclusively up-regulated in CW, providing important clues for earlier molecular signatures of reaction wood formation under gravity stimulus.
The first comprehensive investigation of tracheid characteristics, wood properties and gene transcription in branches of a conifer species revealed more accurate and new insights into reaction wood formation in response to gravity stress. The identified differentially transcribed genes with diverse functions conferred or implicated drastic CW and OW variation observed in radiata pine branches. These genes are excellent candidates for further researches on the molecular mechanisms of reaction wood formation with a view to plant gravitropism.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/1471-2164-14-768) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4046691  PMID: 24209714
Compression wood; Tracheid; Conifers; Transcriptome; Microarray; Plant gravitropism; Microfibril angle (MFA); Wood stiffness
5.  Shrinkage processes in standard-size Norway spruce wood specimens with different vulnerability to cavitation 
Tree physiology  2009;29(11):1419-1431.
The aim of this study was to observe the radial shrinkage of Norway spruce [Picea abies (L. Karst.)] trunkwood specimens with different hydraulic vulnerability to cavitation from the fully saturated state until the overall shrinkage reaches a stable value, and to relate wood shrinkage and recovery from shrinkage to cavitations of the water column inside the tracheids. Radial shrinkage processes in standard-size sapwood specimens (6 mm × 6 mm × 100 mm; radial, tangential and longitudinal) obtained at different positions within the trunk, representing different ages of the cambium, were compared. Cavitation events were assessed by acoustic emission (AE) testing, hydraulic vulnerability by the AE feature analysis and shrinkage was calculated from the changes in contact pressure between the 150 kHz AE transducer and the wood specimen. Two shrinkage processes were observed in both juvenile (annual rings 1 and 2) and mature wood (annual rings 17–19), the first one termed tension shrinkage and the second one cell wall shrinkage process, which started when most of the tracheids reached relative water contents below fiber saturation. Maximum tension shrinkage coincided with high-energy AEs, and the periods of shrinkage recovery could be traced to tension release due to cavitation. Juvenile wood, which was less sensitive to cavitation, had lower earlywood tracheid diameters and was less prone to deformation due to tensile strain than mature wood, showed a lower cell wall shrinkage, and thus total shrinkage. Earlywood lumen diameters and maximum tension shrinkage were strongly positively related to each other, meaning that bigger tracheids are more prone to deformation at the same water tension than the smaller tracheids.
PMCID: PMC3196842  PMID: 19797244
acoustic emission testing; conduit reinforcement; tensile strain; wood shrinkage
6.  Hydraulic efficiency compromises compression strength perpendicular to the grain in Norway spruce trunkwood 
Trees (Berlin, Germany : West)  2011;25(2):289-299.
The aim of this study was to investigate bending stiffness and compression strength perpendicular to the grain of Norway spruce (Picea abies (L.) Karst.) trunkwood with different anatomical and hydraulic properties. Hydraulically less safe mature sapwood had bigger hydraulic lumen diameters and higher specific hydraulic conductivities than hydraulically safer juvenile wood. Bending stiffness (MOE) was higher, whereas radial compression strength lower in mature than in juvenile wood. A density-based tradeoff between MOE and hydraulic efficiency was apparent in mature wood only. Across cambial age, bending stiffness did not compromise hydraulic efficiency due to variation in latewood percent and because of the structural demands of the tree top (e.g. high flexibility). Radial compression strength compromised, however, hydraulic efficiency because it was extremely dependent on the characteristics of the “weakest” wood part, the highly conductive earlywood. An increase in conduit wall reinforcement of earlywood tracheids would be too costly for the tree. Increasing radial compression strength by modification of microfibril angles or ray cell number could result in a decrease of MOE, which would negatively affect the trunk’s capability to support the crown. We propose that radial compression strength could be an easily assessable and highly predictive parameter for the resistance against implosion or vulnerability to cavitation across conifer species, which should be topic of further studies.
PMCID: PMC3207224  PMID: 22058609
Compression strength perpendicular to the grain; Conduit wall reinforcement; Hydraulic efficiency; Modulus of elasticity in bending; Norway spruce; Structure–function relationships; Vulnerability to cavitation; Wood shrinkage
7.  Cavitation in dehydrating xylem of Picea abies: energy properties of ultrasonic emissions reflect tracheid dimensions 
Tree physiology  2011;31(1):59-67.
Ultrasonic emission (UE) testing is used to analyse the vulnerability of xylem to embolism, but the number of UEs often does not sufficiently reflect effects on hydraulic conductivity. We monitored the absolute energy of UE signals in dehydrating xylem samples hypothesizing that (i) conduit diameter is correlated with UE energy and (ii) monitoring of UE energy may enhance the utility of this technique for analysis of xylem vulnerability. Split xylem samples were prepared from trunk wood of Picea abies, and four categories of samples, derived from mature (I: earlywood, II: 30–50% latewood, III: >50% latewood) or juvenile wood (IV: earlywood) were used. Ultrasonic emissions during dehydration were registered and anatomical parameters (tracheid lumen area, number per area) were analysed from cross-sections. Attenuation of UE energy was measured on a dehydrating wood beam by repeated lead breaks. Vulnerability to drought-induced embolism was analysed on dehydrating branches by hydraulic, UE number or UE energy measurements. In split samples, the cumulative number of UEs increased linearly with the number of tracheids per cross-section, and UE energy was positively correlated with the mean lumen area. Ultrasonic emission energies of earlywood samples (I and IV), which showed normally distributed tracheid lumen areas, increased during dehydration, whereas samples with latewood (II and III) exhibited a right-skewed distribution of lumina and UE energies. Ultrasonic emission energy was hardly influenced by moisture content until ~40% moisture loss, and decreased exponentially thereafter. Dehydrating branches showed a 50% loss of conductivity at −3.6 MPa in hydraulic measurements and at −3.9 and −3.5 MPa in UE analysis based on cumulative number or energy of signals, respectively. Ultrasonic emission energy emitted by cavitating conduits is determined by the xylem water potential and by the size of element. Energy patterns during dehydration are thus influenced by the vulnerability to cavitation, conduit size distribution as well as attenuation properties. Measurements of UE energy may be used as an alternative to the number of UEs in vulnerability analysis.
PMCID: PMC3199436  PMID: 21389002
earlywood; latewood; Picea abies; signal energy; tracheid dimension; ultrasonic emission; vulnerability to xylem embolism
8.  Climatic influences on wood anatomy and tree-ring features of Great Basin conifers at a new mountain observatory1 
Applications in Plant Sciences  2014;2(10):apps.1400054.
• Premise of the study: A network of mountain observing stations has been installed in the Great Basin of North America. NevCAN (Nevada Climate-ecohydrological Assessment Network), which spans a latitudinal range of 2.5° and two elevation ranges of about 2000 m each, enabled us to investigate tree growth in relation to climate.
• Methods: We analyzed wood anatomy and tree-ring characteristics of four conifer species in response to different levels of water availability by comparing a low- and a high-elevation population. Chronologies of earlywood and latewood widths, as well as cellular parameters, were developed from the year 2000 to 2012.
• Results: At the southern (drier and warmer) sites, Pinus monophylla had smaller cell lumen, tracheid diameter, and cell wall thickness. Pinus monophylla and P. flexilis showed bigger cellular elements at the higher elevations, whereas the opposite pattern was found in Picea engelmannii and Pinus longaeva. When all species and sites were pooled together, stem diameter was positively related with earlywood anatomical parameters.
• Discussion: We have provided a glimpse of the applications that NevCAN, as a new scientific tool, could allow in the general field of botany. In particular, we were able to investigate how differences in water stress related to elevation lead to changes in xylem anatomy.
PMCID: PMC4189497  PMID: 25309838
elevation-latitude gradients; NevCAN; Picea engelmannii; Pinus flexilis; Pinus longaeva; Pinus monophylla; tracheid size
9.  Changes in the localization and levels of starch and lipids in cambium and phloem during cambial reactivation by artificial heating of main stems of Cryptomeria japonica trees 
Annals of Botany  2010;106(6):885-895.
Background and Aims
Cambial reactivation in trees occurs from late winter to early spring when photosynthesis is minimal or almost non-existent. Reserve materials might be important for wood formation in trees. The localization and approximate levels of starch and lipids (as droplets) and number of starch granules in cambium and phloem were examined from cambial dormancy to the start of xylem differentiation in locally heated stems of Cryptomeria japonica trees in winter.
Electric heating tape was wrapped on one side of the stem of Cryptomeria japonica trees at breast height in winter. The localization and approximate levels of starch and lipids (as droplets) and number of starch granules were determined by image analysis of optical digital images obtained by confocal laser scanning microscopy.
Key Results
Localized heating induced earlier cambial reactivation and xylem differentiation in stems of Cryptomeria japonica, as compared with non-heated stems. There were clear changes in the respective localizations and levels of starch and lipids (as droplets) determined in terms of relative areas on images, from cambial dormancy to the start of xylem differentiation in heated stems. In heated stems, the levels and number of starch granules fell from cambial reactivation to the start of xylem differentiation. There was a significant decrease in the relative area occupied by lipid droplets in the cambium from cambial reactivation to the start of xylem differentiation in heated stems.
The results showed clearly that the levels and number of storage starch granules in cambium and phloem cells and levels of lipids (as droplets) in the cambium decreased from cambial reactivation to the start of xylem differentiation in heated stems during the winter. The observations suggest that starch and lipid droplets might be needed as sources of energy for the initiation of cambial cell division and the differentiation of xylem in Cryptomeria japonica.
PMCID: PMC2990657  PMID: 21037242
Cambial reactivation; confocal laser scanning microscopy; Cryptomeria japonica; lipid; starch; xylem differentiation
10.  Widening of xylem conduits in a conifer tree depends on the longer time of cell expansion downwards along the stem 
Journal of Experimental Botany  2011;63(2):837-845.
The diameter of vascular conduits increases towards the stem base. It has been suggested that this profile is an efficient anatomical feature for reducing the hydraulic resistance when trees grow taller. However, the mechanism that controls the cell diameter along the plant is not fully understood. The timing of cell differentiation along the stem was investigated. Cambial activity and cell differentiation were investigated in a Picea abies tree (11.5 m in height) collecting microsamples at nine different heights (from 1 to 9 m) along the stem with a 4 d time interval. Wood sections (8–12 μm thick) were stained and observed under a light microscope with polarized light to differentiate the developing xylem cells. Cell wall lignification was detected using cresyl violet acetate. The first enlarging cells appeared almost simultaneously along the tree axis indicating that cambium activation is not height-dependent. A significant increase in the duration of the cell expansion phase was observed towards the tree base: at 9 m from the ground, xylem cells expanded for 7 d, at 6 m for 14 d, and at 3 m for 19 d. The duration of the expansion phase is positively correlated with the lumen area of the tracheids (r2=0.68, P < 0.01) at the same height. By contrast, thickness of the cell wall of the earlywood did not show any trend with height. The lumen area of the conduits down the stem appeared linearly dependent on time during which differentiating cells remained in the expansion phase. However, the inductive signal of such long-distance patterned differentiation remains to be identified.
PMCID: PMC3254684  PMID: 22016427
Auxin; cambium; cell differentiation; conduit tapering; Picea abies polar pattern growth
11.  Transcriptome profiling of Pinus radiata juvenile wood with contrasting stiffness identifies putative candidate genes involved in microfibril orientation and cell wall mechanics 
BMC Genomics  2011;12:480.
The mechanical properties of wood are largely determined by the orientation of cellulose microfibrils in secondary cell walls. Several genes and their allelic variants have previously been found to affect microfibril angle (MFA) and wood stiffness; however, the molecular mechanisms controlling microfibril orientation and mechanical strength are largely uncharacterised. In the present study, cDNA microarrays were used to compare gene expression in developing xylem with contrasting stiffness and MFA in juvenile Pinus radiata trees in order to gain further insights into the molecular mechanisms underlying microfibril orientation and cell wall mechanics.
Juvenile radiata pine trees with higher stiffness (HS) had lower MFA in the earlywood and latewood of each ring compared to low stiffness (LS) trees. Approximately 3.4 to 14.5% out of 3, 320 xylem unigenes on cDNA microarrays were differentially regulated in juvenile wood with contrasting stiffness and MFA. Greater variation in MFA and stiffness was observed in earlywood compared to latewood, suggesting earlywood contributes most to differences in stiffness; however, 3-4 times more genes were differentially regulated in latewood than in earlywood. A total of 108 xylem unigenes were differentially regulated in juvenile wood with HS and LS in at least two seasons, including 43 unigenes with unknown functions. Many genes involved in cytoskeleton development and secondary wall formation (cellulose and lignin biosynthesis) were preferentially transcribed in wood with HS and low MFA. In contrast, several genes involved in cell division and primary wall synthesis were more abundantly transcribed in LS wood with high MFA.
Microarray expression profiles in Pinus radiata juvenile wood with contrasting stiffness has shed more light on the transcriptional control of microfibril orientation and the mechanical properties of wood. The identified candidate genes provide an invaluable resource for further gene function and association genetics studies aimed at deepening our understanding of cell wall biomechanics with a view to improving the mechanical properties of wood.
PMCID: PMC3224210  PMID: 21962175
12.  Differentiation of Terminal Latewood Tracheids in Silver Fir Trees During Autumn 
Annals of Botany  2005;95(6):959-965.
• Background and Aims The differentiation of terminal latewood tracheids of silver fir (Abies alba) trees grown in Slovenia was investigated in autumn/winter 2001/2002.
• Methods The experimental trees were divided into three groups: one with narrow annual rings, width less than 1 mm; one with annual ring widths between 1 and 4 mm; and one group with broad rings larger than 4 mm. The differentiation of terminal latewood tracheids was investigated by light-, electron- and UV-microscopy in tissues sampled in October and November 2001 and March 2002.
• Key Results In the middle of October, cambial divisions did not occur any more in any of the trees. In trees with narrow annual rings, cell wall deposition as well as lignification were completed in terminal latewood tracheids at this date, whereas in trees with annual ring widths of more than 1 mm these processes still continued. Electron microscopy as well as UV microscopy revealed an unlignified inner S2 layer and the absence of S3 and warty layers. With increasing distance from the cambium, wall formation and lignification gradually appeared to be completed. Samples of all trees taken in the middle of November only contained differentiated terminal latewood tracheids. At the structural and lignin topochemical level, November and March samples showed completed differentiation of walls of terminal latewood tracheids.
• Conclusions In trees with broader annual rings, the final steps of differentiation of the youngest latewood tracheids near the cambium still continued during autumn, but were finished prior to winter. It was concluded from structural observations that duration of cambial activity is longer in trees with broad annual rings than in trees with narrow rings.
PMCID: PMC4246759  PMID: 15760912
Silver fir (Abies alba); latewood tracheids; cell wall structure; autumn differentiation; lignification; light microscopy; transmission electron microscopy; UV-microspectrophotometry
13.  Impact of drought on the temporal dynamics of wood formation in Pinus sylvestris 
Tree physiology  2010;30(4):490-501.
We determined the temporal dynamics of cambial activity and xylem cell differentiation of Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris L.) within a dry inner Alpine valley (750 m asl, Tyrol, Austria), where radial growth is strongly limited by drought in spring. Repeated micro-sampling of the developing tree ring of mature trees was carried out during 2 contrasting years at two study plots that differ in soil water availability (xeric and dry-mesic site).
In 2007, when air temperature at the beginning of the growing season in April exceeded the long-term mean by 6.4 °C, cambial cell division started in early April at both study plots. A delayed onset of cambial activity of c. 2 wk was found in 2008, when average climate conditions prevailed in spring, indicating that resumption of cambial cell division after winter dormancy is temperature-controlled. Cambial cell division consistently ended about the end of June/early July in both study years. Radial enlargement of tracheids started almost 3 wk earlier in 2007 compared with 2008 at both study plots. At the xeric site, the maximum rate of tracheid production in 2007 and 2008 was reached in early and mid-May, respectively, and c. 2 wk later, at the dry-mesic site. Since in both study years, more favorable growing conditions (i.e., an increase in soil water content) were recorded during summer, we suggest a strong sink competition for carbohydrates to mycorrhizal root and shoot growth. Wood formation stopped c. 4 wk earlier at the xeric compared with the dry-mesic site in both years, indicating a strong influence of drought stress on cell differentiation. This is supported by radial widths of earlywood cells, which were found to be significantly narrower at the xeric than at the dry-mesic site (P < 0.05).
Repeated cellular analyses during the two growing seasons revealed that, although spatial variability in the dynamics and duration of cell differentiation processes in Pinus sylvestris exposed to drought is strongly influenced by water availability, the onset of cambial activity and cell differentiation is controlled by temperature.
PMCID: PMC3046340  PMID: 20197285
Cambium; dry inner Alpine valley; intra-annual growth; Scots pine; tracheid production; xylogenesis
14.  Spatial Patterns in Hyphal Growth and Substrate Exploitation within Norway Spruce Stems Colonized by the Pathogenic White-Rot Fungus Heterobasidion parviporum▿ †  
Applied and Environmental Microbiology  2009;75(12):4069-4078.
In Norway spruce, a fungistatic reaction zone with a high pH and enrichment of phenolics is formed in the sapwood facing heartwood colonized by the white-rot fungus Heterobasidion parviporum. Fungal penetration of the reaction zone eventually results in expansion of this xylem defense. To obtain information about mechanisms operating upon heartwood and reaction zone colonization by the pathogen, hyphal growth and wood degradation were investigated using real-time PCR, microscopy, and comparative wood density analysis of naturally colonized trees with extensive stem decay. The hyphae associated with delignified wood at stump level were devoid of any extracellular matrix, whereas incipient decay at the top of decay columns was characterized by a carbohydrate-rich hyphal sheath attaching hyphae to tracheid walls. The amount of pathogen DNA peaked in aniline wood, a narrow darkened tissue at the colony border apparently representing a compromised region of the reaction zone. Vigorous production of pathogen conidiophores occurred in this region. Colonization of aniline wood was characterized by hyphal growth within polyphenolic lumen deposits in tracheids and rays, and the hyphae were fully encased in a carbohydrate-rich extracellular matrix. Together, these data indicate that the interaction of the fungus with the reaction zone involves a local concentration of fungal biomass that forms an efficient translocation channel for nutrients. Finally, the enhanced production of the hyphal sheath may be instrumental in lateral expansion of the decay column beyond the reaction zone boundary.
PMCID: PMC2698336  PMID: 19376909
15.  Season-associated modifications in symplasmic organization of the cambium in Populus nigra 
Annals of Botany  2010;105(3):375-387.
Background and Aims
Alterations of plasmodesma (PD) connectivity are likely to be very important for plant development. Here, the repetitive division pattern of cambial initials in Populus nigra ‘italica’ was studied to follow the development of the PD network during maturation. Furthermore, seasonal changes were investigated in order to trace indications for developmental and functional adaptations.
Cambium samples of P. nigra twigs, collected in summer, autumn and spring, were chemically fixed for transmission electron microscopy. The parameters, PD density (number of PDs per square micrometre cell-wall area) and PD frequency (total number of PDs per average cell-wall area), were determined for radial and tangential cell interfaces deposited in chronological order.
Key Results
Data sets, presented in plasmodesmograms, show a strong variability in the PD network throughout the year. In summer, high PD numbers occur at the division wall which, after PD doubling by longitudinal fission, decline with further development both at the xylem and the phloem side. In autumn, the number of PDs at the division wall is low as they are in subsequent tangential interfaces. In spring, the first cell division coincides with a massive increase in PD numbers, in particular at the division wall. Only the radial walls between initials maintain their PD equipment throughout the year. This feature can be exploited for identification of the initial layer.
PD networks in the cambium go through a strict developmental programme depending on the season, which is associated with changing functional requirements. For instance, PD numbers correlate with proliferative activity and potential pathways for intercellular signalling. Increases in PD numbers are ascribed to longitudinal fission as a major mechanism, whereas the decline in older derivatives is ascribed to PD degradation.
PMCID: PMC2826250  PMID: 20045870
Cambium; meristem initials; plasmodesmata; Populus nigra ‘italica’; seasonal conditions; ultrastructure
16.  Generation and analysis of expressed sequence tags from six developing xylem libraries in Pinus radiata D. Don 
BMC Genomics  2009;10:41.
Wood is a major renewable natural resource for the timber, fibre and bioenergy industry. Pinus radiata D. Don is the most important commercial plantation tree species in Australia and several other countries; however, genomic resources for this species are very limited in public databases. Our primary objective was to sequence a large number of expressed sequence tags (ESTs) from genes involved in wood formation in radiata pine.
Six developing xylem cDNA libraries were constructed from earlywood and latewood tissues sampled at juvenile (7 yrs), transition (11 yrs) and mature (30 yrs) ages, respectively. These xylem tissues represent six typical development stages in a rotation period of radiata pine. A total of 6,389 high quality ESTs were collected from 5,952 cDNA clones. Assembly of 5,952 ESTs from 5' end sequences generated 3,304 unigenes including 952 contigs and 2,352 singletons. About 97.0% of the 5,952 ESTs and 96.1% of the unigenes have matches in the UniProt and TIGR databases. Of the 3,174 unigenes with matches, 42.9% were not assigned GO (Gene Ontology) terms and their functions are unknown or unclassified. More than half (52.1%) of the 5,952 ESTs have matches in the Pfam database and represent 772 known protein families. About 18.0% of the 5,952 ESTs matched cell wall related genes in the MAIZEWALL database, representing all 18 categories, 91 of all 174 families and possibly 557 genes. Fifteen cell wall-related genes are ranked in the 30 most abundant genes, including CesA, tubulin, AGP, SAMS, actin, laccase, CCoAMT, MetE, phytocyanin, pectate lyase, cellulase, SuSy, expansin, chitinase and UDP-glucose dehydrogenase. Based on the PlantTFDB database 41 of the 64 transcription factor families in the poplar genome were identified as being involved in radiata pine wood formation. Comparative analysis of GO term abundance revealed a distinct transcriptome in juvenile earlywood formation compared to other stages of wood development.
The first large scale genomic resource in radiata pine was generated from six developing xylem cDNA libraries. Cell wall-related genes and transcription factors were identified. Juvenile earlywood has a distinct transcriptome, which is likely to contribute to the undesirable properties of juvenile wood in radiata pine. The publicly available resource of radiata pine will also be valuable for gene function studies and comparative genomics in forest trees.
PMCID: PMC2636829  PMID: 19159482
17.  Complete tylosis formation in a latest Permian conifer stem 
Annals of Botany  2013;111(6):1075-1081.
Background and Aims
Our knowledge of tylosis formation is mainly based on observations of extant plants; however, its developmental and functional significance are less well understood in fossil plants. This study, for the first time, describes a complete tylosis formation in a fossil woody conifer and discusses its ecophysiological implications.
The permineralized stem of Shenoxylon mirabile was collected from the upper Permian (Changhsingian) Sunjiagou Formation of Shitanjing coalfield, northern China. Samples from different portions of the stem were prepared by using the standard thin-sectioning technique and studied in transmitted light.
Key Results
The outgrowth of ray parenchyma cells protruded into adjacent tracheids through pits initially forming small pyriform or balloon-shaped structures, which became globular or slightly elongated when they reached their maximum size. The tracheid luminae were gradually occluded by densely spaced tyloses. The host tracheids are arranged in distinct concentric zones representing different growth phases of tylosis formation within a single growth ring.
The extensive development of tyloses from the innermost heartwood (metaxylem) tracheids to the outermost sapwood tracheids suggests that the plant was highly vulnerable and reacted strongly to environmental stress. Based on the evidence available, the tyloses were probably not produced in response to wound reaction or pathogenic infection, since evidence of wood traumatic events or fungal invasion are not recognizable. Rather, they may represent an ecophysiological response to the constant environmental stimuli.
PMCID: PMC3662507  PMID: 23532049
Shenoxylon mirabile; tylose; fossil plant; conifer wood; ecophysiological response; late Permian; China
18.  Generalized additive models reveal the intrinsic complexity of wood formation dynamics 
Journal of Experimental Botany  2013;64(7):1983-1994.
The intra-annual dynamics of wood formation, which involves the passage of newly produced cells through three successive differentiation phases (division, enlargement, and wall thickening) to reach the final functional mature state, has traditionally been described in conifers as three delayed bell-shaped curves followed by an S-shaped curve. Here the classical view represented by the ‘Gompertz function (GF) approach’ was challenged using two novel approaches based on parametric generalized linear models (GLMs) and ‘data-driven’ generalized additive models (GAMs). These three approaches (GFs, GLMs, and GAMs) were used to describe seasonal changes in cell numbers in each of the xylem differentiation phases and to calculate the timing of cell development in three conifer species [Picea abies (L.), Pinus sylvestris L., and Abies alba Mill.]. GAMs outperformed GFs and GLMs in describing intra-annual wood formation dynamics, showing two left-skewed bell-shaped curves for division and enlargement, and a right-skewed bimodal curve for thickening. Cell residence times progressively decreased through the season for enlargement, whilst increasing late but rapidly for thickening. These patterns match changes in cell anatomical features within a tree ring, which allows the separation of earlywood and latewood into two distinct cell populations. A novel statistical approach is presented which renews our understanding of xylogenesis, a dynamic biological process in which the rate of cell production interplays with cell residence times in each developmental phase to create complex seasonal patterns.
PMCID: PMC3638824  PMID: 23530132
Cambial activity; conifers; generalized linear and additive models (GLMs and GAMs); Gompertz functions (GFs); timing of cell development; tree ring; wood formation; xylogenesis.
19.  Radial shrinkage and ultrasound acoustic emissions of fresh versus pre-dried Norway spruce sapwood 
Trees (Berlin, Germany : West)  2010;24(5):931-940.
Acoustic emission (AE) and radial shrinkage were compared between fully saturated fresh and pre-dried Norway spruce sapwood during dehydration at ambient temperature. Hydraulic conductivity measurements, anatomical investigations on bordered pits and X-ray computed tomography (CT) scans were done to search for possible AE sources other than the breakage of the water columns inside the tracheids. Both fresh and pre-dried specimens showed radial shrinkage due to drying surface layers right from the beginning of dehydration, which induced almost no AE. Whereas no dimensional changes occurred in pre-dried wood thereafter, fresh wood showed a rapid shrinkage increase starting at 25% relative water loss. This dimensional change ceased when further moisture got lost and was even partially reversed. AE of fresh wood showed much higher activity and energy, which is a waveform feature that describes the strength of the acoustic signal. Extremely high single AE energy events were detected at this critical stage of dehydration. After partial recovery from shrinkage, neither dimensional changes nor AE activity showed differences between fresh and pre-dried wood after more than 80% relative moisture loss. Our results suggested that fresh sapwood is more prone to dehydration stresses than pre-dried sapwood. Differences in AE and shrinkage behavior might be due to the weakening or distortion of the pit membranes (cavitation fatigue), pit aspiration, structural changes of the cell walls and micro-checks, which occurred during the first dehydration cycle.
PMCID: PMC3207202  PMID: 22064842
Bordered pits; Cavitation fatigue; Functional wood anatomy; Hydraulic conductance; Norway spruce (Picea abies); Acoustic emission testing; Wood shrinkage; X-ray computed tomography
20.  Radial shrinkage and ultrasound acoustic emissions of fresh versus pre-dried Norway spruce sapwood 
Trees (Berlin, Germany : West)  2010;24(5):931-940.
Acoustic emission (AE) and radial shrinkage were compared between fully saturated fresh and pre-dried Norway spruce sapwood during dehydration at ambient temperature. Hydraulic conductivity measurements, anatomical investigations on bordered pits and X-ray computed tomography (CT) scans were done to search for possible AE sources other than the breakage of the water columns inside the tracheids. Both fresh and pre-dried specimens showed radial shrinkage due to drying surface layers right from the beginning of dehydration, which induced almost no AE. Whereas no dimensional changes occurred in pre-dried wood thereafter, fresh wood showed a rapid shrinkage increase starting at 25% relative water loss. This dimensional change ceased when further moisture got lost and was even partially reversed. AE of fresh wood showed much higher activity and energy, which is a waveform feature that describes the strength of the acoustic signal. Extremely high single AE energy events were detected at this critical stage of dehydration. After partial recovery from shrinkage, neither dimensional changes nor AE activity showed differences between fresh and pre-dried wood after more than 80% relative moisture loss. Our results suggested that fresh sapwood is more prone to dehydration stresses than pre-dried sapwood. Differences in AE and shrinkage behavior might be due to the weakening or distortion of the pit membranes (cavitation fatigue), pit aspiration, structural changes of the cell walls and micro-checks, which occurred during the first dehydration cycle.
PMCID: PMC3207202  PMID: 22064842
Bordered pits; Cavitation fatigue; Functional wood anatomy; Hydraulic conductance; Norway spruce (Picea abies); Acoustic emission testing; Wood shrinkage; X-ray computed tomography
21.  Unusual Metaxylem Tracheids in Petioles of Amorphophallus (Araceae) Giant Leaves 
Annals of Botany  2005;96(3):407-412.
• Background and Aims Petioles of huge solitary leaves of mature plants of Amorphophallus resemble tree trunks supporting an umbrella-like crown. Since they may be 4 m tall, adaptations to water transport in the petioles are as important as adaptations to mechanical support of lamina. The petiole is a cylindrical shell composed of compact unlignified tissue with a honeycomb aerenchymatous core. In both parts numerous vascular bundles occur, which are unique because of the scarcity of lignified elements. In the xylemic part of each bundle there is a characteristic canal with unlignified walls. The xylem pecularities are described and interpreted.
• Material Vascular bundles in mature petioles of Amorphophallus titanum and A. gigas plants were studied using light and scanning electron microscopy.
• Key Results The xylemic canal represents a file of huge metaxylem tracheids (diameter 55–200 µm, length >30 mm) with unlignified lateral walls surrounded by turgid parenchyma cells. Only their end walls, orientated steeply, have lignified secondary thickenings. The file is accompanied by a strand of narrow tracheids with lignified bar-type secondary walls, which come into direct contact with the wide tracheid in many places along its length.
• Conclusions The metaxylem tracheids in A. petioles are probably the longest and widest tracheids known. Only their end walls have lignified secondary thickenings. Tracheids are long due to enormous intercalary elongation and wide due to a transverse growth mechanism similar to that underlying formation of aerenchyma cavities. The lack of lignin in lateral walls shifts the function of ‘pipe walls’ to the turgid parenchyma paving the tracheid. The analogy to carinal canals of Equisetum, as well as other protoxylem lacunas is discussed. The stiff partitions between the long and wide tracheids are interpreted as structures similar to the end walls in vessels.
PMCID: PMC4246780  PMID: 15987695
Apoplasm; Amorphophallus titanum; A. gigas; cohesion-tension theory; lignification; metaxylem; petiole; protoxylem lacuna; tracheid length
22.  Intra-annual variability of anatomical structure and δ13C values within tree rings of spruce and pine in alpine, temperate and boreal Europe 
Oecologia  2009;161(4):729-745.
Tree-ring width, wood density, anatomical structure and 13C/12C ratios expressed as δ13C-values of whole wood of Picea abies were investigated for trees growing in closed canopy forest stands. Samples were collected from the alpine Renon site in North Italy, the lowland Hainich site in Central Germany and the boreal Flakaliden site in North Sweden. In addition, Pinus cembra was studied at the alpine site and Pinus sylvestris at the boreal site. The density profiles of tree rings were measured using the DENDRO-2003 densitometer, δ13C was measured using high-resolution laser-ablation-combustion-gas chromatography-infra-red mass spectrometry and anatomical characteristics of tree rings (tracheid diameter, cell-wall thickness, cell-wall area and cell-lumen area) were measured using an image analyzer. Based on long-term statistics, climatic variables, such as temperature, precipitation, solar radiation and vapor pressure deficit, explained <20% of the variation in tree-ring width and wood density over consecutive years, while 29–58% of the variation in tree-ring width were explained by autocorrelation between tree rings. An intensive study of tree rings between 1999 and 2003 revealed that tree ring width and δ13C-values of whole wood were significantly correlated with length of the growing season, net radiation and vapor pressure deficit. The δ13C-values were not correlated with precipitation or temperature. A highly significant correlation was also found between δ13C of the early wood of one year and the late wood of the previous year, indicating a carry-over effect of the growing conditions of the previous season on current wood production. This latter effect may explain the high autocorrelation of long-term tree-ring statistics. The pattern, however, was complex, showing stepwise decreases as well as stepwise increases in the δ13C between late wood and early wood. The results are interpreted in the context of the biochemistry of wood formation and its linkage to storage products. It is clear that the relations between δ13C and tree-ring width and climate are multi-factorial in seasonal climates.
PMCID: PMC2744769  PMID: 19653008
Dendrochonology; Carbohydrate storage; Picea abies; Pinus cembra; Pinus sylvestris; Tracheid lumen area; Wood density
23.  A broad survey of hydraulic and mechanical safety in the xylem of conifers 
Journal of Experimental Botany  2014;65(15):4419-4431.
Torus overlap and tracheid wall thickness are strongly correlated with cavitation resistance based on data from 115 conifer species.
Drought-induced forest dieback has been widely reported over the last decades, and the evidence for a direct causal link between survival and hydraulic failure (xylem cavitation) is now well known. Because vulnerability to cavitation is intimately linked to the anatomy of the xylem, the main objective of this study was to better understand the xylem anatomical properties associated with cavitation resistance. An extensive data set of cavitation resistance traits and xylem anatomical properties was developed for 115 conifer species, with special attention given to the micro-morphology of bordered pits. The ratio of torus to pit aperture diameter, so-called torus overlap, increased with increasing cavitation resistance, while the flexibility of the margo does not seem to play a role, suggesting that air-seeding is located at the seal between the aspirated torus and pit aperture. Moreover, punctured tori were reported in various Pinaceae species. Species resistant to cavitation had thicker tracheid walls, while their lumen diameter (conduit size) was only slightly reduced, minimizing the impact on hydraulic conductance. The results also demonstrated (i) the existence of an indirect trade-off between hydraulic safety and mechanical strength; and (ii) a consistency between species distribution and xylem anatomy: species with a wide torus overlap and high valve effects are found in arid environments such as the Mediterranean region.
PMCID: PMC4112641  PMID: 24916072
Cavitation resistance; hydraulic efficiency; mechanical strength; seal capillary–seeding; torus–margo pit; xylem anatomy; wall implosion.
24.  Cambial activity and xylem cell development in Pinus cembra and Pinus sylvestris at their climatic limits in the Eastern Alps in 2007 
Phyton; annales rei botanicae  2011;51(2):299-313.
It has been frequently stressed that at distributional boundaries, like at the Alpine timberline and within dry inner Alpine environments, tree growth will be affected first by changing climate conditions. Climate in 2007 was characterized by the occurrence of exceptionally mild temperatures in spring (3.4 and 2.7 °C above long-term mean (LTM) at timberline and the valley sites, respectively) with an almost continuous drought period recorded in April and slightly warmer than average temperatures throughout summer (1.3 °C above LTM at both sites).
We compared temporal dynamics of cambial activity and xylem cell development in Pinus cembra at the Alpine timberline (1950 m a.s.l.) and Pinus sylvestris at a xeric inner Alpine site (750 m a.s.l.) by repeated cellular analyses of micro-cores (n = 5 trees/site). While onset of wood formation in P. sylvestris and P. cembra differed by about two weeks (12 and 27 April, respectively), maximum daily growth rates peaked on 6 May at the valley site and on 23 June at timberline. At both sites maximum tracheid production was reached prior to occurrence of more favourable climatic conditions during summer, i.e. an increase in precipitation and temperature. Xylem formation ended on 31 August and 28 October at the xeric site and at timberline, respectively.
This study demonstrates the plasticity of tree-ring formation along an altitudinal transect in response to water availability and temperature. Whether early achievement of maximum growth rates is an adaptation to cope with extreme environmental conditions prevailing at limits of tree growth needs to be analysed more closely by taking belowground carbon allocation into account.
PMCID: PMC3837289  PMID: 24273354
Alpine timberline; cambium; dry inner Alpine valley; intra-annual growth; Scots pine; Stone pine; wood anatomy; xylogenesis
25.  Auxin-Responsive DR5 Promoter Coupled with Transport Assays Suggest Separate but Linked Routes of Auxin Transport during Woody Stem Development in Populus 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(8):e72499.
Polar auxin transport (PAT) is a major determinant of plant morphology and internal anatomy with important roles in vascular patterning, tropic growth responses, apical dominance and phyllotactic arrangement. Woody plants present a highly complex system of vascular development in which isolated bundles of xylem and phloem gradually unite to form concentric rings of conductive tissue. We generated several transgenic lines of hybrid poplar (Populus tremula x alba) with the auxin-responsive DR5 promoter driving GUS expression in order to visualize an auxin response during the establishment of secondary growth. Distinct GUS expression in the cambial zone and developing xylem-side derivatives supports the current view of this tissue as a major stream of basipetal PAT. However, we also found novel sites of GUS expression in the primary xylem parenchyma lining the outer perimeter of the pith. Strands of primary xylem parenchyma depart the stem as a leaf trace, and showed GUS expression as long as the leaves to which they were connected remained attached (i.e., until just prior to leaf abscission). Tissue composed of primary xylem parenchyma strands contained measurable levels of free indole-3-acetic acid (IAA) and showed basipetal transport of radiolabeled auxin (3H-IAA) that was both significantly faster than diffusion and highly sensitive to the PAT inhibitor NPA. Radiolabeled auxin was also able to move between the primary xylem parenchyma in the interior of the stem and the basipetal stream in the cambial zone, an exchange that was likely mediated by ray parenchyma cells. Our results suggest that (a) channeling of leaf-derived IAA first delineates isolated strands of pre-procambial tissue but then later shifts to include basipetal transport through the rapidly expanding xylem elements, and (b) the transition from primary to secondary vascular development is gradual, with an auxin response preceding the appearance of a unified and radially-organized vascular cambium.
PMCID: PMC3744479  PMID: 23977308

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