, Volume 194, Issue 1–2, pp 29–39 | Cite as

Atomic force microscopy of pollen grains, cellulose microfibrils, and protoplasts

  • N. N. van der Wel
  • C. A. J. Putman
  • S. J. T. van Noort
  • B. G. de Grooth
  • A. M. C. Emons


Atomic force microscopy (AFM) holds unique prospects for biological microscopy, such as nanometer resolution and the possibility of measuring samples in (physiological) solutions. This article reports the results of an examination of various types of plant material with the AFM. AFM images of the surface of pollen grains ofKalanchoe blossfeldiana andZea mays were compared with field emission scanning electron microscope (FESEM) images. AFM reached the same resolutions as FESEM but did not provide an overall view of the pollen grains. Using AFM in torsion mode, however, it was possible to reveal differences in friction forces of the surface of the pollen grains. Cellulose microfibrils in the cell wall of root hairs ofRaphanus sativus andZ. mays were imaged using AFM and transmission electron microscopy (TEM). Imaging was performed on specimens from which the wall matrix had been extracted. The cell wall texture of the root hairs was depicted clearly with AFM and was similar to the texture known from TEM. It was not possible to resolve substructures in a single microfibril. Because the scanning tip damaged the fragile cells, it was not possible to obtain images of living protoplasts ofZ. mays, but images of fixed and dried protoplasts are shown. We demonstrate that AFM of plant cells reaches resolutions as obtained with FESEM and TEM, but obstacles still have to be overcome before imaging of living protoplasts in physiological conditions can be realized.


Atomic force microscope Cell wall texture Cellulose microfibrils Pollen grains Protoplasts 



atomic force microscope


field emission scanning electron microscope


pyrolysis mass spectrometry


transmission electron microscope


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1996

Authors and Affiliations

  • N. N. van der Wel
    • 1
  • C. A. J. Putman
    • 2
  • S. J. T. van Noort
    • 2
  • B. G. de Grooth
    • 2
  • A. M. C. Emons
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Plant Cytology and MorphologyWageningen Agricultural UniversityDB WageningenThe Netherlands
  2. 2.Department of Applied PhysicsUniversity of TwenteEnschede

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