pp 1–11 | Cite as

Within-tree variability and sample storage effects of bordered pit membranes in xylem of Acer pseudoplatanus

  • Martyna M. KotowskaEmail author
  • Rebecca Thom
  • Ya Zhang
  • H. Jochen Schenk
  • Steven Jansen
Original Article


Key message

Intervessel pit membranes in xylem tissue of Acer pseudoplatanus differ in their thickness both within and across plant organs and may undergo considerable shrinkage during dehydration and sample preparation.


Intervessel pit membranes have been suggested to account for more than half of the total xylem hydraulic resistance in plants and play a major role in vulnerability to drought-induced hydraulic failure. While the thickness of intervessel pit membranes was found to be associated with xylem embolism resistance at an interspecific level, variation in pit membrane structure across different organs along the flow path within a single tree remains largely unknown. Based on transmission electron microscopy, we examined intra-tree variation of bordered pit and pit membrane characteristics in xylem of roots, stems, branches, petioles, and leaf veins of Acer pseudoplatanus. Moreover, potential preparation artefacts on pit membrane structure such as alcohol treatment and dehydration were tested. Our observations showed quantitative differences in bordered pits across organs, including variation in pit membrane thickness within and across organs. Vessel size was weakly related to intervessel wall thickness, but not significantly linked to pit membrane thickness. Gradual dehydration of wood samples resulted in irreversible shrinkage of pit membranes, together with increased levels of aspiration. These findings are relevant to explore similarity in xylem embolism resistance across plant organs.


Bordered pit Electron microscopy Pit membrane Vessel Wood anatomy 



We thank the Botanical Garden of Ulm University for support and providing plant material. We would like to acknowledge the Electron Microscopy Section of Ulm University for technical support with electron microscopy. The project was financially supported by the German Research Foundation (DFG; JA 2174/5-1, nr. 383393940). Contributions to this research by H. J. Schenk were made possible by funding from the National Science Foundation (IOS-1558108).

Supplementary material

468_2019_1897_MOESM1_ESM.docx (8.3 mb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 8454 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute of Systematic Botany and EcologyUlm UniversityUlmGermany
  2. 2.Albrecht-von-Haller Institute for Plant SciencesUniversity of GoettingenGöttingenGermany
  3. 3.Department of Biological ScienceCalifornia State University FullertonFullertonUSA

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