, Volume 233, Issue 4, pp 763–772 | Cite as

Functional plant cell wall design revealed by the Raman imaging approach

  • Stephan Richter
  • Jörg Müssig
  • Notburga Gierlinger
Original Article


Using the Raman imaging approach, the optimization of the plant cell wall design was investigated on the micron level within different tissue types at different positions of a Phormium tenax leaf. Pectin and lignin distribution were visualized and the cellulose microfibril angle (MFA) of the cell walls was determined. A detailed analysis of the Raman spectra extracted from the selected regions, allowed a semi-quantitative comparison of the chemical composition of the investigated tissue types on the micron level. The cell corners of the parenchyma revealed almost pure pectin and the cell wall an amount of 38–49% thereof. Slight lignification was observed in the parenchyma and collenchyma in the top of the leaf and a high variability (7–44%) in the sclerenchyma. In the cell corners and in the cell wall of the sclerenchymatic fibres surrounding the vascular tissue, the highest lignification was observed, which can act as a barrier and protection of the vascular tissue. In the sclerenchyma high variable MFA (4°–40°) was detected, which was related with lignin variability. In the primary cell walls a constant high MFA (57°–58°) was found together with pectin. The different plant cell wall designs on the tissue and microlevel involve changes in chemical composition as well as cellulose microfibril alignment and are discussed and related according to the development and function.


Confocal Raman microscopy Lignin Microfibril orientation Pectin Plant cell wall Phormium 



Cell corners










Cellulose microfibril angle

P1 to P4

Position 1 to 4






Sheath cells




Spongy parenchyma


Vascular bundle





Notburga Gierlinger acknowledges financial support by the APART programme of the Austrian Academy of Sciences.


  1. Agarwal UP (2006) Raman imaging to investigate ultrastructure and composition of plant cell walls: distribution of lignin and cellulose in black spruce wood (Picea mariana). Planta 224:1141–1153PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Agarwal UP, Ralph SA (1997) FT-Raman spectroscopy of wood: identifying contributions of lignin and carbohydrate polymers in the spectrum of black spruce (Picea mariana). Appl Spectrosc 51:1648–1655CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Boudet A-M (2000) Lignins and lignification: selected issues. Plant Physiol Biochem 38:81–96CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Caffall KH, Mohnen D (2009) The structure, function, and biosynthesis of plant cell wall pectic polysaccharides. Carbohydr Res 344:1879–1900PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Carr DJ, Cruthers NM, Laing RM, Niven BE (2005) Fibers from three cultivars of New Zealand flax (Phormium tenax). Text Res J 75:93–98CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Critchfield HJ (1951) Phormium tenax: New Zealand’s native hard fiber. Econ Bot 5:172CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Cruthers NM, Carr DJ, Laing RM, Niven BE (2006) Structural differences among fibers from six cultivars of Harakeke (Phormium tenax, New Zealand flax). Text Res J 76:601–606CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Duchemin B, Staiger MP (2009) Treatment of Harakeke fiber for biocomposites. J Appl Polym Sci 112:2710–2715CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Engels FM, Jung HG (1998) Alfalfa stem tissues: cell-wall development and lignification. Ann Bot (London) 82:561–568CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Etzold H (2002) Simultanfärbung von Pflanzenschnitten mit Fuchsin, Chrysoidin und Astrablau. Mikrokosmos 91:316Google Scholar
  11. Gierlinger N, Schwanninger M (2006) Chemical imaging of poplar wood cell walls by confocal Raman microscopy. Plant Physiol 140:1246–1254PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Gierlinger N, Schwanninger M (2007) The potential of Raman microscopy and Raman imaging in plant research. Spectrosc Int J 21:69–89Google Scholar
  13. Gierlinger N, Luss S, Konig C, Konnerth J, Eder M, Fratzl P (2010) Cellulose microfibril orientation of Picea abies and its variability at the micron-level determined by Raman imaging. J Exp Bot 61:587–595PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Gindl W, Teischinger A (2002) Axial compression strength of Norway spruce related to structural variability and lignin content. Compos Part A Appl Sci 33:1623–1628CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Gindl W, Gupta HS, Schöberl T, Lichtenegger HC, Fratzl P (2004) Mechanical properties of spruce wood cell walls by nanoindentation. Appl Phys A Mater 79:2069–2073Google Scholar
  16. Harris W, Scheele SM, Brown CE, Sedcole JR (2005a) Ethnobotanical study of growth of Phormium varieties used for traditional Maori weaving. N Z J Bot 43:83–118CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Harris W, Scheele SM, Forrester GJ (2005b) Varietal differences and environmental effects on leaves of Phormium harvested for traditional Maori weaving. N Z J Bot 43:791–816CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Jayaraman K, Halliwell R (2009) Harakeke (Phormium tenax) fibre-waste plastics blend composites processed by screwless extrusion. Compos Part B Eng 40:645–649CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Jungnikl K, Koch G, Burgert I (2008) A comprehensive analysis of the relation of cellulose microfibril orientation and lignin content in the S2 layer of different tissue types of spruce wood (Picea abies (L.) Karst.). Holzforschung 62:475–480CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Keckes J, Burgert I, Fruhmann K, Muller M, Kolln K, Hamilton M, Burghammer M, Roth SV, Stanzl-Tschegg S, Fratzl P (2003) Cell-wall recovery after irreversible deformation of wood. Nat Mater 2:810–814PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Kennedy CJ, Sturcova A, Jarvis MC, Wess TJ (2007) Hydration effects on spacing of primary-wall cellulose microfibrils: a small angle X-ray scattering study. Cellulose 14:401–408CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. King MJ, Vincent JFV, Harris W (1996) Curling and folding of leaves of monocotyledons—a strategy for structural stiffness. N Z J Bot 34:411–416Google Scholar
  23. Le Guen MJ, Newman RH (2007) Pulped Phormium tenax leaf fibres as reinforcement for epoxy composites. Compos Part A Appl Sci 38:2109–2115CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Lewis NG, Yamamoto E (1990) Lignin—occurrence, biogenesis and biodegradation. Annu Rev Plant Phys 41:455–496CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. McIlroy RJ (1949) The hemicellulose of Phormium tenax (N. Z. flax). Part II. The constitution of the aldotrionic acid. J Chem Soc: 121–124Google Scholar
  26. McIlroy RJ, Holmes GS, Mauger RP (1945) A preliminary study of the polyuronide hemicellulose of Phormium tenax (N. Z. flax). J Chem Soc: 796–799Google Scholar
  27. Mohnen D (2008) Pectin structure and biosynthesis. Curr Opin Plant Biol 11:266–277PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Musel G, Schindler T, Bergfeld R, Ruel K, Jacquet G, Lapierre C, Speth V, Schopfer P (1997) Structure and distribution of lignin in primary and secondary cell walls of maize coleoptiles analyzed by chemical and immunological probes. Planta 201:146–159CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Newman RH, Clauss EC, Carpenter JEP, Thumm A (2007) Epoxy composites reinforced with deacetylated Phormium tenax leaf fibres. Compos Part A Appl Sci 38:2164–2170CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Niklas KJ (1992) Plant biomechanics. An engineering approach to plant form and function. The University of Chicago Press, ChicagoGoogle Scholar
  31. Rangasamy M, Rathinasabapathi B, McAuslane HJ, Cherry RH, Nagata RT (2009) Role of leaf sheath lignification and anatomy in resistance against southern chinch bug (Hemiptera: Blissidae) in St. Augustine grass. J Econ Entomol 102:432–439PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Reiterer A, Lichtenegger H, Tschegg S, Fratzl P (1999) Experimental evidence for a mechanical function of the cellulose microfibril angle in wood cell walls. Philos Mag A 79:2173–2184CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Rüggeberg M, Speck T, Paris O, Lapierre C, Pollet B, Koch G, Burgert I (2008) Stiffness gradients in vascular bundles of the palm Washingtonia robusta. Proc R Soc B 275:2221–2229PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Santulli C, Jeronimidis G, De Rosa IM, Sarasini F (2009) Mechanical and falling weight impact properties of unidirectional phormium fibre/epoxy laminates. Express Polym Lett 3:650–656CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Schmidt M, Schwartzberg AM, Perera PN, Weber-Bargioni A, Carroll A, Sarkar P, Bosneaga E, Urban JJ, Song J, Balakshin MY, Capanema EA, Auer M, Adams PD, Chiang VL, Schuck PJ (2009) Label-free in situ imaging of lignification in the cell wall of low lignin transgenic Populus trichocarpa. Planta 230:589–597PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Sims IM, Cairns AJ, Furneaux RH (2001) Structure of fructans from excised leaves of New Zealand flax. Phytochemistry 57:661–668PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Synytsya A, Copikova J, Matejka P, Machovic V (2003) Fourier transform Raman and infrared spectroscopy of pectins. Carbohydr Polym 54:97–106CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Thimm JC, Burritt DJ, Ducker WA, Melton LD (2009) Pectins influence microfibril aggregation in celery cell walls: an atomic force microscopy study. J Struct Biol 168:337–344PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Turner AJ (1949) The structure of textile fibres. VIII. The long vegetable fibres. J Text I 40:972–982CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Via BK, So CL, Shupe TF, Groom LH, Wikaira J (2009) Mechanical response of longleaf pine to variation in microfibril angle, chemistry associated wavelengths, density, and radial position. Compos Part A App Sci 40:60–66CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Vincent JFV (1999) From cellulose to cell. J Exp Biol 202:3263–3268PubMedGoogle Scholar
  42. Wehi PM (2009) Indigenous ancestral sayings contribute to modern conservation partnerships: examples using Phormium tenax. Ecol Appl 19:267–275PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Wehi PM, Clarkson BD (2007) Biological flora of New Zealand 10. Phormium tenax, harakeke, New Zealand flax. N Z J Bot 45:521–544CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Wuyts N, Lognay G, Verscheure M, Marlier M, De Waele D, Swennen R (2007) Potential physical and chemical barriers to infection by the burrowing nematode Radopholus similis in roots of susceptible and resistant banana (Musa spp.). Plant Pathol 56:878–890CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Stephan Richter
    • 1
  • Jörg Müssig
    • 1
  • Notburga Gierlinger
    • 2
    • 3
  1. 1.Faculty 5/Biomimetics, Biological MaterialsUniversity of Applied Sciences BremenBremenGermany
  2. 2.Department of BiomaterialsMax-Planck Institute of Colloids and InterfacesPotsdamGermany
  3. 3.Johannes Kepler University LinzInstitute of Polymer ScienceLinzAustria

Personalised recommendations