Intervessel pit membrane thickness best explains variation in embolism resistance amongst stems of Arabidopsis thaliana accessions

Ajaree Thonglim*, Sylvain Delzon, Maximilian Larter, Omid Karami, Arezoo Rahimi, Remko Offringa, Joost J.B. Keurentjes, Salma Balazadeh, Erik Smets, Frederic Lens

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

17 Citations (Scopus)


Background and Aims The ability to avoid drought-induced embolisms in the xylem is one of the essential traits for plants to survive periods of water shortage. Over the past three decades, hydraulic studies have been focusing on trees, which limits our ability to understand how herbs tolerate drought. Here we investigate the embolism resistance in inflorescence stems of four Arabidopsis thaliana accessions that differ in growth form and drought response. We assess functional traits underlying the variation in embolism resistance amongst the accessions studied using detailed anatomical observations. Methods Vulnerability to xylem embolism was evaluated via vulnerability curves using the centrifuge technique and linked with detailed anatomical observations in stems using light microscopy and transmission electron microscopy. Key Results The data show significant differences in stem P50, varying 2-fold from -1.58 MPa in the Cape Verde Island accession to -3.07 MPa in the woody soc1 ful double mutant. Out of all the anatomical traits measured, intervessel pit membrane thickness (TPM) best explains the differences in P50, as well as P12 and P88. The association between embolism resistance and TPM can be functionally explained by the air-seeding hypothesis. There is no evidence that the correlation between increased woodiness and increased embolism resistance is directly related to functional aspects. However, we found that increased woodiness is strongly linked to other lignification characters, explaining why mechanical stem reinforcement is indirectly related to increased embolism resistance. Conclusions The woodier or more lignified accessions are more resistant to embolism than the herbaceous accessions, confirming the link between increased stem lignification and increased embolism resistance, as also observed in other lineages. Intervessel pit membrane thickness and, to a lesser extent, theoretical vessel implosion resistance and vessel wall thickness are the missing functional links between stem lignification and embolism resistance.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)171-182
Number of pages12
JournalAnnals of Botany
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 20 Nov 2020


  • Arabidopsis thaliana
  • Embolism resistance
  • Herbaceous species
  • Intervessel pit membrane
  • Lignification
  • Stem anatomy
  • Xylem hydraulics


Dive into the research topics of 'Intervessel pit membrane thickness best explains variation in embolism resistance amongst stems of Arabidopsis thaliana accessions'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this