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Plant J. 2008 Nov;56(4):531-8. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-313X.2008.03617.x. Epub 2008 Aug 4.

Stress generation in the tension wood of poplar is based on the lateral swelling power of the G-layer.

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Max Planck Institute of Colloids and Interfaces, Department of Biomaterials, 14424 Potsdam, Germany.


The mechanism of active stress generation in tension wood is still not fully understood. To characterize the functional interdependency between the G-layer and the secondary cell wall, nanostructural characterization and mechanical tests were performed on native tension wood tissues of poplar (Populus nigra x Populus deltoids) and on tissues in which the G-layer was removed by an enzymatic treatment. In addition to the well-known axial orientation of the cellulose fibrils in the G-layer, it was shown that the microfibril angle of the S2-layer was very large (about 36 degrees). The removal of the G-layer resulted in an axial extension and a tangential contraction of the tissues. The tensile stress-strain curves of native tension wood slices showed a jagged appearance after yield that could not be seen in the enzyme-treated samples. The behaviour of the native tissue was modelled by assuming that cells deform elastically up to a critical strain at which the G-layer slips, causing a drop in stress. The results suggest that tensile stresses in poplar are generated in the living plant by a lateral swelling of the G-layer which forces the surrounding secondary cell wall to contract in the axial direction.

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