In vivo dynamic analysis of water refilling in embolized xylem vessels of intact Zea mays leaves

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Background and Aims The refilling of embolized xylem vessels under tension is a major issue in water transport among vascular plants. However, xylem embolism and refilling remain poorly understood because of technical limitations. Direct observation of embolism repair in intact plants is essential to understand the biophysical aspects of water refilling in embolized xylem vessels. This paper reports on details of the water refilling process in leaves of the intact herbaceous monocot plant Zea mays and its refilling kinetics obtained by a direct visualization technique.

Methods A synchrotron X-ray micro-imaging technique was used to monitor water refilling in embolized xylem vessels of intact maize leaves. Xylem embolism was artificially induced by using a glass capillary; real-time images of water refilling dynamics were consecutively captured at a frame rate of 50 f.p.s.

Key Results Water supply in the radial direction initiates droplet formation on the wall of embolized xylem vessels. Each droplet grows into a water column; this phenomenon shows translation motion or continuous increase in water column volume. In some instances, water columns merge and form one large water column. Water refilling in the radial direction causes rapid recovery from embolism in several minutes. The average water refilling velocity is approx. 1 μm s−1.

Conclusions Non-destructive visualization of embolized xylem vessels demonstrates rapid water refilling and gas bubble removal as key elements of embolism repair in a herbaceous monocot species. The refilling kinetics provides new insights into the dynamic mechanism of water refilling phenomena.

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