Evolution of xylem lignification and hydrogel transport regulation

C. Kevin Boyce*, Maciej A. Zwieniecki, George D. Cody, Chris Jacobsen, Sue Wirick, Andrew H. Knoll, N. Michele Holbrook

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

138 Scopus citations


In vascular plants, the polysaccharide-based walls of water-conducting cells are strengthened by impregnation with the polyphenolic polymer lignin. The fine-scale patterning of lignin deposition in water-conducting cells is shown here to vary phylogenetically across vascular plants. The extent to which water transport in xylem cells can be modified in response to changes in the ionic content of xylem sap also is shown to vary in correlation with variation in lignification patterns, consistent with the proposed mechanism for hydraulic response through size change of middle-lamella pectins. This covariation suggests that the fine-scale distribution of hydrophilic polysaccharides and hydrophobic lignin can affect hydraulic as well as mechanical properties, and that the evolutionary diversification of vascular cells thus reflects biochemical as well as morphological innovations evolved to fulfill opposing cell functions of transport and structural support.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)17555-17558
Number of pages4
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number50
StatePublished - Dec 14 2004


  • Cell wall chemistry
  • Hydraulics
  • Lignin
  • Plant

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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