, Volume 92, Issue 1-2, pp 21-41

An examination of the developing cotton fiber: Wall and plasmalemma

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Summary

The ultrastructure of developing cotton fibers has been examined using novel modifications of the techniques of surface replication, freeze-etching and thin-sectioning. The fiber surface was found to be coated with a lamellar cuticle, which is stretched and thinned as the fiber elongates. It is marked by bars which run parallel with the fiber long axis. Beneath the cuticle, the outermost microfibrils of the primary wall lie parallel with the fiber axis, while those adjacent to the plasma membrane are transverse. Primary wall microfibrils are present in bundles, disposed in left-handed and right-handed helices, which correspond with the fibrils observed optically. Microfibrils within bundles form in-phase waves, with wavelengths and amplitudes in the ranges 0.3–7 μm and 0.01–0.1 μm in primary and secondary walls respectively. As elongation proceeds bundles become displaced towards the cell axis. Microfibrils of the secondary wall, disposed around the cell as fast helices, are similarly bundled and wavy (though with a reduced amplitude). In surface-replicas, large (20–30 nm) granules are present on the cytoplasmic face of the wall which probably correspond with 20–40 nm low prominences visible on freeze-etch EF plasma membrane fracture faces. It is proposed that these may be microfibril-synthesizing centers. Plasma membranes fracture such that the membrane-associated-particles segregate 60∶40 between P and E fracture moieties, but the prominence and total number of these particles is reduced at the stage of secondary wall formation as compared with primary wall formation. Beneath the plasmalemma the axes of microtubules parallel secondary wall microfibril orientation. Cross-bridges, which stain heavily after glutaraldehyde/tannic acid fixation, link microtubules to plasma membrane. The use of butyl benzene to cement fragments of cotton fibers, employed in this work, may prove useful in other freeze-etch studies of long fibers which are readily ruptured during preparation.