Hormonal control of wood formation in radiata pine
Thesis DisciplinePlant Physiology
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameDoctor of Philosophy
Pinus radiata is by far the dominant species grown in New Zealand plantations as a renewable source of wood. Several wood quality issues have been identified in the material produced, including the high incidence of compression wood, which is undesirable for end users. At present our understanding of the complex array of developmental processes involved in wood formation (which has a direct bearing on wood quality) is limited. Hence, the forest industry is interested in attaining a better understanding of the processes involved. Towards this goal, and for reasons of biological curiosity, the experiments described in this thesis were carried out to investigate several aspects of xylem cell development. In an in arbor study, changes in the orientation of cortical microtubules and cellulose microfibrils were observed in developing tracheids. Results obtained provide evidence that cortical microtubules act to guide cellulose synthase complexes during secondary wall formation in tracheids. The mechanisms involved in controlling cell wall deposition in wood cells are poorly understood, and are difficult to study, especially in arbor. A major part of this thesis involved the development of an in vitro method for culturing radiata pine wood in which hormone levels, nutrients, sugars and other factors, could be controlled without confounding influences from other parts of the tree. The method developed was used in subsequent parts of this thesis to study compression wood development, and the influence of the hormone gibberellin on cellulose microfibril organisation in the cell wall. Results from the in vitro compression wood experiments suggested that: 1. when a tree is growing at a lean, the developing cell wall was able to perceive compressive forces generated by the weight of the rest of the tree, rather than perceive the lean per se. 2. ethylene, rather than auxin, was involved in the induction of compression wood. Culture of stem explants with gibberellin resulted in wider cells, with steeper cortical microtubules, and correspondingly steeper cellulose microfibrils in the S2 layer of developing wood cells. This observation provides further evidence that the orientation of microtubules guides the orientation of cellulose microfibrils. Overall, the work described in this thesis furthers our knowledge in the field of xylem cell development. The stem culture protocol developed will undoubtedly provide a valuable tool for future studies to be carried out.