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In vivo Visualization of the Water-refilling Process in Xylem Vessels Using X-ray Micro-imaging

Lee, Sang-Joon, Kim, Yangmin
Annals of botany 2008 v.101 no.4 pp. 595-602
Phyllostachys bambusoides, X-radiation, bubbles, cameras, exposure duration, gases, image analysis, leaves, new methods, stems, xylem vessels
BACKGROUND AND AIMS: Xylem vessels containing gases (embolized) must be refilled with water if they are to resume transport of water through the plant, so refilling is of great importance for the maintenance of water balance in plants. However, the refilling process is poorly understood because of inadequate examination methods. Simultaneous measurements of plant anatomy and vessel refilling are essential to elucidate the mechanisms involved. In the present work, a new technique based on phase-contrast X-ray imaging is presented that visualizes, in vivo and in real time, both xylem anatomy and refilling of embolized vessels. METHODS: With the synchrotron X-ray micro-imaging technique, the refilling of xylem vessels of leaves and a stem of Phyllostachys bambusoides with water is demonstrated under different conditions. The technique employs phase contrast imaging of X-ray beams, which are transformed into visible light and are photographed by a charge coupled device camera. X-ray images were captured consecutively at every 0·5 s with an exposure time of 10 ms. KEY RESULTS: The interface (meniscus) between the water and gas phases in refilling the xylem vessels is displayed. During refilling, the rising menisci in embolized vessels showed repetitive flow, i.e. they temporarily stopped at the end walls of the vessel elements while gas bubbles were removed. The meniscus then passed through the end wall at a faster rate than the speed of flow in the main vessels. In the light, the speed of refilling in a specific vessel was slower than that in the dark, but this rate increased again after repeated periods in darkness. CONCLUSIONS: Real-time, non-destructive X-ray micro-imaging is an important, useful and novel technique to study the relationship between xylem structure and the refilling of embolized vessels in intact plants. It provides new insight into understanding the mechanisms of water transport and the refilling of embolized vessels, which are not understood well.