Super-resolution imaging with Pontamine Fast Scarlet 4BS enables direct visualization of cellulose orientation and cell connection architecture in onion epidermis cells

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In plants, a complex cell wall protects cells and defines their shape. Cellulose fibrils form a multilayered network inside the cell-wall matrix that plays a direct role in controlling cell expansion. Resolving the structure of this network will allow us to comprehend the relationship of cellulose fibril orientation and growth.
The fluorescent dye Pontamine Fast Scarlet 4BS (PFS) was shown to stain cellulose with high specificity and could be used to visualize cellulose bundles in cell walls of Arabidopsis root epidermal cells with confocal microscopy. The resolution limit of confocal microscopy of some 200 nm in xy and 550 nm in z for green light, restricts the direct visualization of cellulose to relatively large bundles, whereas the structure of cellulose microfibrils with their diameter below 10 nm remains unresolved. Over the last decade, several so-called super-resolution microscopy approaches have been developed; in this paper we explore the potential of such approaches for the direct visualization of cellulose.

To ensure optimal imaging we determined the spectral properties of PFS-stained tissue. PFS was found not to affect cell viability in the onion bulb scale epidermis. We present the first super-resolution images of cellulose bundles in the plant cell wall produced by direct stochastic optical reconstruction microscopy (dSTORM) in combination with total internal reflection fluorescence (TIRF) microscopy. Since TIRF limits observation to the cell surface, we tested as alternatives 3D-structured illumination microscopy (3D-SIM) and confocal microscopy, combined with image deconvolution. Both methods offer lower resolution than STORM, but enable 3D imaging. While 3D-SIM produced strong artifacts, deconvolution gave good results. The resolution was improved over conventional confocal microscopy and the approach could be used to demonstrate differences in fibril orientation in different layers of the cell wall as well as particular cellulose fortifications around plasmodesmata.

Super-resolution light microscopy of PFS-stained cellulose fibrils is possible and the increased resolution over conventional approaches makes it a valuable tool for the investigation of the cell-wall structure. This is one step in method developments that will close the gap to more invasive techniques, such as atomic force and electron microscopy.
Original languageEnglish
Article number226
JournalB M C Plant Biology
Number of pages18
Publication statusPublished - 2013

    Research areas

  • Former LIFE faculty - Fluorescent dye, Cell Wall, Cellulose, STORM, Structured illumination, TIRF, Deconvolution

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