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The formation of interlocked grain in African mahogany (Khaya spp.) analysed by X-ray computed microtomography

Collings, D.A., Thomas, J., Dijkstra, S.M., Harrington, J.J. and Steppe, K. (2021) The formation of interlocked grain in African mahogany (Khaya spp.) analysed by X-ray computed microtomography. Tree Physiology, 41 (8). pp. 1542-1557.

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Interlocked grain occurs when the orientation of xylem fibres oscillates, alternating between left- and right-handed spirals in successive wood layers. The cellular mechanisms giving rise to interlocked grain, thought to involve the slow rotation of fusiform initials within the vascular cambium, remain unclear. We suggest that observations of wood structure at the cellular level, but over large areas, might reveal these mechanisms. We assayed timber from several commercially important tropical angiosperms from the genus Khaya (African mahogany) that exhibit interlocked grain using X-ray computed microtomography followed by orthogonal slicing and image processing in ImageJ. Reconstructed tangential longitudinal sections were processed with the ImageJ DIRECTIONALITY plug-in to directly measure fibre orientation and showed grain deviations of more than 10° from vertical in both left- and right-handed directions. Grain changed at locally constant rates, separated by locations where the direction of grain change sharply reversed. Image thresholding and segmentation conducted on reconstructed cross sections allowed the identification of vessels and measurement of their location, with vessel orientations then calculated in Matlab and, independently, in recalculated tangential longitudinal sections with the DIRECTIONALITY plug-in. Vessel orientations varied more than fibre orientations, and on average deviated further from vertical than fibres at the locations where the direction of grain change reversed. Moreover, the reversal location for vessels was shifted ~400 μm towards the pith compared with the fibres, despite both cell types arising from the same fusiform initials within the vascular cambium. We propose a simple model to explain these distinct grain patterns. Were an auxin signal to control both the reorientation of cambial initials, as well as coordinating the end-on-end differentiation and linkage of xylem vessel elements, then it would be possible for fibres and vessels to run at subtly different angles, and to show different grain reversal locations.

Item Type: Journal Article
Murdoch Affiliation(s): Harry Butler Institute
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Copyright: © 2021 The Authors.
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