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Plant Physiol. 2010 Mar;152(3):1650-8. doi: 10.1104/pp.109.149542. Epub 2010 Jan 13.

Maturation stress generation in poplar tension wood studied by synchrotron radiation microdiffraction.

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Laboratoire de Mécanique et Génie Civil, CNRS, Université Montpellier 2, 34095 Montpellier, France.

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Tension wood is widespread in the organs of woody plants. During its formation, it generates a large tensile mechanical stress, called maturation stress. Maturation stress performs essential biomechanical functions such as optimizing the mechanical resistance of the stem, performing adaptive movements, and ensuring long-term stability of growing plants. Although various hypotheses have recently been proposed, the mechanism generating maturation stress is not yet fully understood. In order to discriminate between these hypotheses, we investigated structural changes in cellulose microfibrils along sequences of xylem cell differentiation in tension and normal wood of poplar (Populus deltoides x Populus trichocarpa 'I45-51'). Synchrotron radiation microdiffraction was used to measure the evolution of the angle and lattice spacing of crystalline cellulose associated with the deposition of successive cell wall layers. Profiles of normal and tension wood were very similar in early development stages corresponding to the formation of the S1 and the outer part of the S2 layer. The microfibril angle in the S2 layer was found to be lower in its inner part than in its outer part, especially in tension wood. In tension wood only, this decrease occurred together with an increase in cellulose lattice spacing, and this happened before the G-layer was visible. The relative increase in lattice spacing was found close to the usual value of maturation strains, strongly suggesting that microfibrils of this layer are put into tension and contribute to the generation of maturation stress.

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