Quantification of microfibril angle in secondary cell walls at subcellular resolution by means of polarized light microscopy

Yael Abraham, Rivka Elbaum*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

45 Scopus citations


Summary: The cell walls constitute the mechanical support of plants. Crystalline cellulose building the walls forms rigid microfibrils that set the stiffness of the cell and the direction in which it expands during growth. Therefore, the determination of the directions of the microfibrils is important in both mechanical and developmental assays. We adapted polarized light microscopy to estimate the cellulose microfibril orientations at subcellular resolution. The optical information supplements X-ray scattering data, Raman microspectroscopy, and electron microscopy. We analyzed samples from three plant tissues: cells from an Araucaria excels branch, in which we revealed lower cellulose density in regions where the cell wall curvature becomes bigger, namely, the cell wall corners; a wheat (Triticum turgidum) awn's hygroscopically active region, which revealed a gradient in the cellulose microfibril angles that spans across four cell rows; and a stork's bill's (Erodium gruinum) coiling awn, which revealed that the cellulose in the cell wall is organized in two orientations seamed together, rather than in a continuous helix. The unique spatial information is easily obtained from microscopic specimens and further illuminates new aspects in the mechanical tissues.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)1012-1019
Number of pages8
JournalNew Phytologist
Issue number3
StatePublished - Feb 2013


  • Araucaria excelsa
  • Cellulose crystallinity
  • Erodium gruinum
  • Hygroscopic movement
  • LC-Polscope
  • Mechanical tissues
  • Microfibril angle
  • Triticum turgidum


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