Table_1_Ageing-induced shrinkage of intervessel pit membranes in xylem of Clematis vitalba modifies its mechanical properties as revealed by atomic force microscopy.docx
Bordered pit membranes of angiosperm xylem are anisotropic, mesoporous media between neighbouring conduits, with a key role in long distance water transport. Yet, their mechanical properties are poorly understood. Here, we aim to quantify the stiffness of intervessel pit membranes over various growing seasons. By applying an AFM-based indentation technique “Quantitative Imaging” we measured the effective elastic modulus (Eeffective) of intervessel pit membranes of Clematis vitalba in dependence of size, age, and hydration state. The indentation-deformation behaviour was analysed with a non-linear membrane model, and paired with magnetic resonance imaging to visualise sap-filled and embolised vessels, while geometrical data of bordered pits were obtained using electron microscopy. Eeffective was transformed to the geometrically independent apparent elastic modulus Eapparent and to aspiration pressure Pb. The material stiffness (Eapparent) of fresh pit membranes was with 57 MPa considerably lower than previously suggested. The estimated pressure for pit membrane aspiration was 2.20+28 MPa. Pit membranes from older growth rings were shrunken, had a higher material stiffness and a lower aspiration pressure than current year ones, suggesting an irreversible, mechanical ageing process. This study provides an experimental-stiffness analysis of hydrated intervessel pit membranes in their native state. The estimated aspiration pressure suggests that membranes are not deflected under normal field conditions. Although absolute values should be interpreted carefully, our data suggest that pit membrane shrinkage implies increasing material stiffness, and highlight the dynamic changes of pit membrane mechanics and their complex, functional behaviour for fluid transport.