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Plant J. 2010 Mar;61(5):854-61. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-313X.2009.04115.x. Epub 2009 Dec 21.

G-fibres in storage roots of Trifolium pratense (Fabaceae): tensile stress generators for contraction.

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Department of Biomaterials, Max-Planck-Institute of Colloids and Interfaces, Research Campus Golm, 14424 Potsdam, Germany.


Root contraction has been described for many species within the plant kingdom for over a century, and many suggestions have been made for mechanisms behind these contractions. To move the foliage buds deeper into the soil, the proximal part of the storage root of Trifolium pratense contracts by up to 30%. Anatomical studies have shown undeformed fibres next to strongly deformed tissues. Raman imaging revealed that these fibres are chemically and structurally very similar to poplar (Populus) tension wood fibres, which are known to generate high tensile stresses and bend leaning stems or branches upright. Analogously, an almost pure cellulosic layer is laid down in the lumen of certain root fibres, on a thin lignified secondary cell wall layer. To reveal its stress generation capacities, the thick cellulosic layer, reminiscent of a gelatinous layer (G-layer) in tension wood, was selectively removed by enzymatic treatment. A substantial change in the dimensions of the isolated wood fibre bundles was observed. This high stress relaxation indicates the presence of high tensile stress for root contraction. These findings indicate a mechanism of root contraction in T. pratense (red clover) actuated via tension wood fibres, which follows the same principle known for poplar tension wood.

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