Cambium: old challenges – new opportunities
Trees represent a, probably the, major component of the biosphere and have a unique place in the history of Mankind. One of their most fascinating features is the process of secondary growth which is effected principally by the secondary vascular system, the developmental continuum of secondary phloem, vascular cambium, and secondary xylem. However, for too long assumptions about the developmental biology of trees have had to be based upon studies of primary growth systems within annual, herbaceous species because study of the secondary vascular system had been largely ignored. Even when attempts are made to understand some of the most fundamental features of the secondary vascular system, such as xylogenesis, the current model system, isolated Zinnia mesophyll cells, is not entirely appropriate to the situation in the intact tree. Some deficiencies of the Zinnia system are discussed, and the advantages of the genus Populus as a model for study of the hardwood secondary vascular system are considered. Some of the new approaches which are poised to lead to significant advances in our knowledge of the cell bio-logy of the secondary vascular system of trees – spe-cifically of the cell wall, the plasmalemma, and the cytoskeleton – are discussed. The value of one of these new techniques – immunocytochemistry – is demonstrated by a consideration of recent work on the role of the cytoskeleton in the hardwood secondary vascular system.
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