Functional Plant Biology Functional Plant Biology Society
Plant function and evolutionary biology

Mucilage production by wounded xylem tissue of maize roots — time course and stimulus

Laura J. Crews, Margaret E. McCully and Martin J. Canny

Functional Plant Biology 30(7) 755 - 766
Published: 08 August 2003


As a reaction to invasion by pathogens, plants block their xylem conduits with mucilage, restricting pathogen advance. Wounding soil-grown roots of maize revealed that pectinaceous mucilage could be found in the vessels after 6 h, and abundantly filled most vessels up to 3 cm proximal to the wound after 1 d. Phenolics increased in the mucilage at later times. The same reactions occurred in vessels following mechanical wounding of axenically-grown roots, showing that the presence of microbes is not necessary for the response. The xylem mucilage is similar to root-cap mucilage in mode of extrusion from the periplasmic space of living cells through primary wall, apparent phase transition, and staining indicative of acidic polysaccharides. Whether other known properties of root-cap mucilage which might alter vessel functioning, such as reduction of surface tension and increased viscosity produced by dissolved solutes, are also common to xylem mucilage requires further investigation. However, our results indicate that possible influence of wounding-induced mucilage in xylem vessels should be considered in all experimental investigations of xylem function.

Keywords: axenic roots, phenolics, resistance to infection, water transport, wound reaction, xylem conduits, xylem mucilage, xylem parenchyma, Zea mays.

© CSIRO 2003

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