Cells work tightly together to form the water-conducting vascular tissue of plants

February 25, 2016 by Ingrid Söderbergh
Cells work tightly together to form the water-conducting vascular tissue of plants
Xylem is a transport tissue in plants carrying water from the root up to the leaf. The Xylem is visible as wood in stems of trees and "nerves" in leaves. Credit: Flickr

Plants transport water in pipe-like structures made of dead and empty cells within a vascular tissue called xylem. Sacha Escamez concludes in his doctoral dissertation that different cell types work together to build the 'water pipes' in the xylem, to a greater extent than previously thought. This new insight can be used in modifying and improving properties of woody biomass.

Xylem in plants (which is called 'wood' in trees and bushes) is a very important element because it transports water from roots to leaves while providing mechanical stability to the plant. The water-conducting parts of the xylem are formed after specific 'self-destruct' as part of a . These cells that die are also emptied, leaving hollow cell walls with their ends open, thus forming pipe-like structures.

Sacha Escamez has participated in discovering that these 'self-destructing' cells make sure to protect the surrounding cells from potential damage connected with the former's programmed cell death. Meanwhile, the surrounding cells provide the 'self-destructing' cells with molecules called lignins, which contribute to building strong cell walls. The reinforcement of the walls of the 'self-destructing' cells by lignins is crucial in order to efficiently transport water. On the other hand, high amounts of lignin hinder the use of for various applications.

The new understanding of the extent of cellular collaboration during wood formation has implications for the quality and the chemical composition of wood.

"This new knowledge is not only valuable from a basic research point of view; it is also an insight that can be used to modify and improve the properties of woody biomass, in particular with the aim of producing second-generation biofuels and biochemicals," says Sacha Escamez.

Second-generation biofuels is a generic term for biofuels produced from various types of biomass which do not compete with the production of food crops. Hence, it is a type of biofuels which can mainly be produced from wood. Biochemicals are chemicals that have been obtained through the conversion of plant biomass.

Sacha Escamez has conducted the experiments on the model plant Arabidopsis thaliana.

Explore further: Important step in wood formation demonstrated by Bio4Energy scientists

More information: Xylem cells cooperate in the control of lignification and cell death during plant vascular development: umu.diva-portal.org/smash/reco … 3A900504&dswid=-9012

Related Stories

Engineering plants for biofuels

November 26, 2012

With increasing demands for sustainable energy, being able to cost-efficiently produce biofuels from plant biomass is more important than ever. However, lignin and hemicelluloses present in certain plants mean that they cannot ...

Recommended for you

Mammal long thought extinct in Australia resurfaces

December 15, 2017

A crest-tailed mulgara, a small carnivorous marsupial known only from fossilised bone fragments and presumed extinct in NSW for more than century, has been discovered in Sturt National Park north-west of Tibooburra.

Finding a lethal parasite's vulnerabilities

December 15, 2017

An estimated 100 million people around the world are infected with Strongyloides stercoralis, a parasitic nematode, yet it's likely that many don't know it. The infection can persist for years, usually only causing mild symptoms. ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.