Relationship of wood cell wall ultrastructure to bacterial degradation of wood

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ABSTRACT

This review presents information on the relationship of ultrastructure and composition of wood cell walls, in order to understand how wood degrading bacteria utilise cell wall components for their nutrition. A brief outline of the structure and composition of plant cell walls and the degradation patterns associated with bacterial degradation of wood cell walls precedes the description of the relationship of cell wall micro- and ultrastructure to bacterial degradation of the cell wall. The main topics covered are cell wall structure and composition, patterns of cell wall degradation by erosion and tunnelling bacteria, and the relationship of cell wall ultrastructure and composition to wood degradation by erosion and tunnelling bacteria. Finally, pertinent information from select recent studies employing molecular approaches to identify bacteria which can degrade lignin and other wood cell wall components is presented, and prospects for future investigations on wood degrading bacteria are explored.

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Figures
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    Transverse section through Pinus sylvestris tracheid showing EB (erosion bacteria) attack on the cell wall. EB associated with erosion troughs are positioned in vicinity to the secondary cell wall undergoing degradation (arrowheads). The middle lamella is resistant (arrow). RM, residual material. The image is reproduced from Singh et al. (1990). – Scale bar = 4 μm.

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    The diagram provides an overall view of TB (tunnelling bacterium) attack on the wood cell wall. TB initially attach to the cell wall (1) and subsequently penetrate into and across the S3 layer (2, 3). Arrows indicate tunnelling in varying directions.

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    Glancing section through part of a cell wall showing repeated branching of tunnels (*) radiating from a central point. TB, tunnelling bacteria. The image is reproduced from Singh et al. (2016). – Scale bar = 2 μm.

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    Transverse section through Pinus radiata tracheid showing the presence of TB (arrowhead) and a tunnel (arrow) within the S1 layer. – Scale bar = 8 μm.

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    Transverse section through Pinus radiata tracheid showing that TB (*) is positioned at the leading front of the tunnel (T). The tunnel contains periodic bands (arrowhead). The image is reproduced from Singh (1989). – Scale bar = 2 μm.

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    Transverse section through Homalium foetidum fibre tissue. The cell walls are heavily degraded and filled with TB (arrowhead) and tunnels (arrows). The direction of tunnelling is variable and all cell wall regions, including the middle lamella (*), are degraded. The image is reproduced from Singh et al. (1987b). – Scale bar = 8 μm.

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    Transverse section through Pinus radiata tracheid showing EB attack on the cell wall. EB (arrowheads) display a near-circular profile and are associated with erosion troughs. Scavenging bacteria (asterisks) are associated with residual material (RM). – Scale bar = 2 μm.

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    Transverse section through tracheids of waterlogged archaeological Pinus yunnanis wood. The arrow indicates the presence of part of the S3 wall overlying the S2 wall (asterisk) heavily degraded by EB (bacteria not preserved). – Scale bar = 2 μm.

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    Transverse section through a bordered pit region between tracheids of waterlogged archaeological Pinus yunnanis wood. The S2 wall (asterisk) is heavily degraded by EB (bacteria not preserved), but initial pit border regions (arrow) and warts (arrowheads) appear to be resistant. – Scale bar = 2 μm.

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    Cotton fibre walls degraded by TB (arrows). Tunnels contain continuous layers of fibrillar slime (arrowheads) and lack characteristic prominent bands. – Scale bar = 500 nm.

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    Section through Pteridium aquilinum stem showing the presence of a tunnel (arrow) filled with tiny dense granules. The image is reproduced from Singh & Butcher (1991). – Scale bar = 1 μm.

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    Transverse section through Alstonia scholaris vessel cell walls degraded by TB. TB and tunnels (T) are present in all cell wall regions except the tiny vestures (arrowheads), which appear to be resistant. The image is reproduced from Singh et al. (1987b). – Scale bar = 2 μm.

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    Transverse section through Pinus radiata tracheids showing combined TB and soft rot attack on cell walls. TB and tunnels (T) are present in cell wall regions not occupied by soft rot cavities (SRC). – Scale bar = 2 μm.

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