Spotting plants’ microfilament morphologies and nanostructures

Ana P. Almeida, João Canejo, Urban Mur, Simon Copar, Pedro L. Almeida, Slobodan Žumer, Maria Helena Godinho

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


The tracheary system of plant leaves is composed of a cellulose skeleton with diverse hierarchical structures. It is built of polygo-nally bent helical microfilaments of cellulose-based nanostructures coated by different layers, which provide them high compression resistance, elasticity, and roughness. Their function includes the transport of water and nutrients from the roots to the leaves. Unveiling details about local interactions of tracheary elements with surrounding material, which varies between plants due to adaptation to different environments, is crucial for understanding ascending fluid transport and for tracheary mechanical strength relevant to potential applications. Here we show that plant tracheary microfilaments, collected from Agapanthus africanus and Ornithogalum thyrsoides leaves, have different surface morphologies, revealed by nematic liquid crystal droplets. This results in diverse interactions among microfilaments and with the environment; the differences translate to diverse mechanical properties of entangled microfilaments and their potential applications. The presented study also introduces routes for accurate characterization of plants’ microfilaments.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)13188-13193
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number27
Publication statusPublished - 2 Jul 2019


  • Mechanical properties
  • Morphology
  • Nematic liquid crystals
  • Tracheary microfilaments


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