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J Struct Biol. 2003 Jul;143(1):77-84.

Lignin distribution in wood cell walls determined by TEM and backscattered SEM techniques.

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Department for Wood Biology, Technical University of Munich, Winzererstrasse 45, 80797 Munich, Germany.


The lignin distribution in cell walls of spruce and beech wood was determined by high-voltage transmission-electron-microscopy (TEM) in sections stained with potassium permanganate as well as by field-emission-scanning-electron-microscopy (FE-SEM) combined with a back-scattered electron detector on mercurized specimens. The latter is a new technique based on the mercurization of lignin and the concomitant visualization of mercury by back-scattered electron microscopy (BSE). Due to this combination it was possible to obtain a visualized overview of the lignin distribution across the different layers of the cell wall. To our knowledge, this combined method was used the first time to analyse the lignin distribution in cell walls. In agreement with previous work the highest lignin levels were found in the compound middle lamella and the cell corners. Back-scattered FE-SEM allows the lignin distribution in the pit membrane of bordered pits as well as in the various cell wall layers to be shown. In addition, by using TEM as well as SEM we observed that lignin closely follows the cellulose microfibril orientation in the secondary cell wall. From these observations, we conclude that the polymerisation of monolignols is affected by the arrangement of the polysaccharides which constitute the cell wall.

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