Gradients of cell wall nano-mechanical properties along and across elongating primary roots of maize

J Exp Bot. 2021 Feb 27;72(5):1764-1781. doi: 10.1093/jxb/eraa561.


To test the hypothesis that particular tissues can control root growth, we analysed the mechanical properties of cell walls belonging to different tissues of the apical part of the maize root using atomic force microscopy. The dynamics of properties during elongation growth were characterized in four consecutive zones of the root. Extensive immunochemical characterization and quantification were used to establish the polysaccharide motif(s) related to changes in cell wall mechanics. Cell transition from division to elongation was coupled to the decrease in the elastic modulus in all root tissues. Low values of moduli were retained in the elongation zone and increased in the late elongation zone. No relationship between the immunolabelling pattern and mechanical properties of the cell walls was revealed. When measured values of elastic moduli and turgor pressure were used in the computational simulation, this resulted in an elastic response of the modelled root and the distribution of stress and strain similar to those observed in vivo. In all analysed root zones, cell walls of the inner cortex displayed moduli of elasticity that were maximal or comparable with the maximal values among all tissues. Thus, we propose that the inner cortex serves as a growth-limiting tissue in maize roots.

Keywords: Atomic force microscopy; elongation growth; immunolabelling; maize; nano-mechanical properties; primary cell wall; root.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Cell Wall
  • Elastic Modulus
  • Elasticity
  • Plant Roots*
  • Zea mays*