Discover the most talked about and latest scientific content & concepts.

Concept: Trichome


The cleanup of accidental oil spills in water is an enormous challenge; conventional oil sorbents absorb large amounts of water in addition to oil and other cleanup methods can cause secondary pollution. In contrast, fresh leaves of the aquatic ferns Salvinia are superhydrophobic and superoleophilic, and can selectively absorb oil while repelling water. These selective wetting properties are optimal for natural oil absorbent applications and bioinspired oil sorbent materials. In this paper we quantify the oil absorption capacity of four Salvinia species with different surface structures, water lettuce (Pistia stratiotes) and Lotus leaves (Nelumbo nucifera), and compare their absorption capacity to artificial oil sorbents. Interestingly, the oil absorption capacities of Salvinia molesta and Pistia stratiotes leaves are comparable to artificial oil sorbents. Therefore, these pantropical invasive plants, often considered pests, qualify as environmentally friendly materials for oil spill cleanup. Furthermore, we investigated the influence of oil density and viscosity on the oil absorption, and examine how the presence and morphology of trichomes affect the amount of oil absorbed by their surfaces. Specifically, the influence of hair length and shape is analyzed by comparing different hair types ranging from single trichomes of Salvinia cucullata to complex eggbeater-shaped trichomes of Salvinia molesta to establish a basis for improving artificial bioinspired oil absorbents.

Concepts: Petroleum, Liquid, Absorption, Fern, Digestion, Aquatic plants, Oil spill, Trichome


Auxin is a key regulator of plant growth and development, but the causal relationship between hormone transport and root responses remains unresolved. Here we describe auxin uptake, together with early steps in signaling, in Arabidopsis root hairs. Using intracellular microelectrodes we show membrane depolarization, in response to IAA in a concentration- and pH-dependent manner. This depolarization is strongly impaired in aux1 mutants, indicating that AUX1 is the major transporter for auxin uptake in root hairs. Local intracellular auxin application triggers Ca2+signals that propagate as long-distance waves between root cells and modulate their auxin responses. AUX1-mediated IAA transport, as well as IAA-triggered calcium signals, are blocked by treatment with the SCFTIR1/AFB- inhibitor auxinole. Further, they are strongly reduced in the tir1afb2afb3 and the cngc14 mutant. Our study reveals that the AUX1 transporter, the SCFTIR1/AFBreceptor and the CNGC14 Ca2+channel, mediate fast auxin signaling in roots.

Concepts: Protein, Causality, Cell membrane, Electrochemistry, Signal, Root, Hair, Trichome


KEY MESSAGE : Rooting of Artemisia annua increases trichome size on leaves and helps drive the final steps of the biosynthesis of the sesquiterpene antimalarial drug, artemisinin. Artemisia annua produces the antimalarial drug, artemisinin (AN), which is synthesized and stored in glandular trichomes (GLTs). In vitro-grown A. annua shoots produce more AN when they form roots. This may be a function not of the roots, but rather media components such as the phytohormones, α-naphthaleneacetic acid (NAA) and 6-benzylaminopurine (BAP), or salts and sucrose used to maintain either rooted or unrooted shoot cultures. We investigated how three main media components altered artemisinic metabolite production, pathway gene transcripts, and GLT formation in both mature and developing leaves in rooted and unrooted cultures. Although transcript levels of AN biosynthetic genes were not altered, AN levels were significantly different, and there were major differences in both artemisinic metabolite levels and trichomes in mature versus developing leaves. For example, NAA induced higher AN production in rooted shoots, but only in mature leaves. In developing leaves, BAP increased GLT density on the leaf surface. When both phytohormones were present, GLTs were larger on young developing leaves, but smaller on mature leaves. Furthermore, although other media components increased GLT density, their size decreased on young leaves, but there was no effect on mature leaves. Roots also appeared to drive conversion of artemisinic precursors towards end products. These results suggest that, while the presence of roots affects AN and trichome production, phytohormones and other media constituents used for in vitro culture of A. annua also exert an influence.

Concepts: Gene, Amino acid, Artemisinin, Leaf, Plant morphology, Antimalarial drug, Artemisia annua, Trichome


Salvia lachnostachys Benth., Lamiaceae, is a endemic species from southern Brazil. The essential oil of its leaves and flowers is mainly constituted by aliphatic compounds, such as dodecanoic acid, with sesquiterpenes as minor constituents. This work evaluated the morphology, anatomy, microchemistry, and phytochemistry of S. lachnostachys to provide advanced knowledge of Brazilian plants with medicinal potential. Light and scanning electron microscopy techniques were used in the anatomical and microchemical studies. Compounds were isolated by chromatographic techniques, identified by analysis of their NMR spectra and compared with published data. S. lachnostachys can be distinguished from other related species mainly by its petiolate leaves, terminal inflorescence, persistent bracts, and villous-glandular corolla. The stem and leaves of S. lachnostachys display anatomical characteristics common to the family Lamiaceae. However, this species can be distinguished from other family members by the morphology and the presence of eglandular and glandular trichomes, as well as the organization of the vascular bundles of the petiole. The phytochemical results revealed that S. lacnostachys produces oleanolic and ursolic acids in addition to the diterpene fruticuline A, which is a rare compound, previously found only in Salvia fruticulosa Benth. and S. corrugata Vahl. Ursolic and oleanolic acids are bioactive triterpenes that exhibit antiatherosclerotic, anticancer, antihypertensive, antinflammatory, antileukemic, antimutagenic, antioxidant, antiproliferative, and antiviral activities, and fruticuline A has antibacterial activity. Microsc. Res. Tech. © 2012 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.

Concepts: Electron, Biology, Anatomy, Scanning electron microscope, Leaf, Plant morphology, Lamiaceae, Trichome


Leaf pubescence (hairiness) in wheat plays an important biological role in adaptation to the environment. However, this trait has always been methodologically difficult to phenotype. An important step forward has been taken with the use of computer technologies. Computer analysis of a photomicrograph of a transverse fold line of a leaf is proposed for quantitative evaluation of wheat leaf pubescence. The image-processing algorithm is implemented in the LHDetect2 software program accessible as a Web service at . The results demonstrate that the proposed method is rapid, adequately assesses leaf pubescence density and the length distribution of trichomes and the data obtained using this method are significantly correlated with the density of trichomes on the leaf surface. Thus, the proposed method is efficient for high-throughput analysis of leaf pubescence morphology in cereal genetic collections and mapping populations.

Concepts: Algorithm, Biology, Natural environment, Computer, Computer program, Computer programming, Computer software, Trichome


Desert plants possess highly evolved water conservation and transport systems, from the root structures that maximize absorption of scarce ground water(1-5), to the minimization of leaf surface area(6) to enhance water retention. Recent attention has focused on leaf structures that are adapted to collect water and promote nucleation from humid air(7-9). Syntrichia caninervis Mitt. (Pottiaceae) is one of the most abundant desert mosses in the world and thrives in an extreme environment with multiple but limited water resources (such as dew, fog, snow and rain), yet the mechanisms for water collection and transport have never been completely revealed. S. caninervis has a unique adaptation: it uses a tiny hair (awn) on the end of each leaf to collect water, in addition to that collected by the leaves themselves. Here we show that the unique multiscale structures of the hair are equipped to collect and transport water in four modes: nucleation of water droplets and films on the leaf hair from humid atmospheres; collection of fog droplets on leaf hairs; collection of splash water from raindrops; and transportation of the acquired water to the leaf itself. Fluid nucleation is accomplished in nanostructures, whereas fog droplets are gathered in areas where a high density of small barbs are present and then quickly transported to the leaf at the base of the hair. Our observations reveal nature’s optimization of water collection by coupling relevant multiscale physical plant structures with multiscale sources of water.

Concepts: Plant, Water, Precipitation, Surface tension, Water vapor, Leaf, Dew point, Trichome


Resurgence in bed bug infestations and widespread pesticide resistance have greatly renewed interest in the development of more sustainable, environmentally friendly methods to manage bed bugs. Historically, in Eastern Europe, bed bugs were entrapped by leaves from bean plants, which were then destroyed; this purely physical entrapment was related to microscopic hooked hairs (trichomes) on the leaf surfaces. Using scanning electron microscopy and videography, we documented the capture mechanism: the physical impaling of bed bug feet (tarsi) by these trichomes. This is distinct from a Velcro-like mechanism of non-piercing entanglement, which only momentarily holds the bug without sustained capture. Struggling, trapped bed bugs are impaled by trichomes on several legs and are unable to free themselves. Only specific, mechanically vulnerable locations on the bug tarsi are pierced by the trichomes, which are located at effective heights and orientations for bed bug entrapment despite a lack of any evolutionary association. Using bean leaves as templates, we microfabricated surfaces indistinguishable in geometry from the real leaves, including the trichomes, using polymers with material properties similar to plant cell walls. These synthetic surfaces snag the bed bugs temporarily but do not hinder their locomotion as effectively as real leaves.

Concepts: Photosynthesis, Cell, Plant, Cell wall, Plant physiology, Leaf, Trichome, Bedbug


The fossil record of carnivorous plants is very scarce and macrofossil evidence has been restricted to seeds of the extant aquatic genus Aldrovanda of the Droseraceae family. No case of carnivorous plant traps has so far been reported from the fossil record. Here, we present two angiosperm leaves enclosed in a piece of Eocene Baltic amber that share relevant morphological features with extant Roridulaceae, a carnivorous plant family that is today endemic to the Cape flora of South Africa. Modern Roridula species are unique among carnivorous plants as they digest prey in a complex mutualistic association in which the prey-derived nutrient uptake depends on heteropteran insects. As in extant Roridula, the fossil leaves possess two types of plant trichomes, including unicellular hairs and five size classes of multicellular stalked glands (or tentacles) with an apical pore. The apices of the narrow and perfectly tapered fossil leaves end in a single tentacle, as in both modern Roridula species. The glandular hairs of the fossils are restricted to the leaf margins and to the abaxial lamina, as in extant Roridula gorgonias. Our discovery supports current molecular age estimates for Roridulaceae and suggests a wide Eocene distribution of roridulid plants.

Concepts: Plant, Fern, Leaf, Plant morphology, Carnivorous plant, Fossil, Trichome, Roridula


Calcium phosphate was unknown as a plant biomineral until recently reported in Neotropical Loasaceae. Here, we demonstrate its widespread occurrence in the trichomes of several plant families, including Brassicaceae. Calcium phosphate is the primary biomineral in, e.g., the bones and teeth of higher animals; in plants, it was only recently discovered in the stinging hairs and scabrid-glochidiate trichomes of South American Loasaceae (Ensikat et al. in Sci Rep UK 6:26073, 2016), where it appears to be deposited highly specifically, often replacing the common plant biomineral silica. We initiated a broader survey in a range of different plant orders to investigate a possibly wider distribution of calcium phosphate biomineralization in plants. Scanning electron microscopy with EDX element analysis and mapping was used for the detection of the biominerals: calcium phosphate, calcium carbonate, and silica in the trichomes of several common plant species of different orders. Results were authenticated with Raman spectroscopy. Calcium phosphate was found in the trichomes of several species in the orders Malpighiales, Rosales, Boraginales, and Brassicales. It occurred in trichome tips, replacing the more common silica, or together with silica and calcium carbonate at specific locations in the trichome cell walls. Most surprisingly, it was found in the trichomes of Arabidopsis thaliana, one of the most studied plant species-where it had been overlooked so far. The wide distribution of calcium phosphate as plant biomineral here demonstrated and the striking mineralization patterns with three different biominerals in the walls of single-celled trichomes underscore an unexpected complexity in plant biomineralization.

Concepts: Bone, Species, Plant, Calcium, Arabidopsis thaliana, Arabidopsis, Brassicaceae, Trichome


Multicellular glandular trichomes are epidermal outgrowths characterized by the presence of a head made of cells that have the ability to secrete or store large quantities of specialized metabolites. Our understanding of the transcriptional control of glandular trichome initiation and development is still in its infancy. This review points to some central questions that need to be addressed to better understand how such specialized cell structures arise from the plant protodermis. A key and unique feature of glandular trichomes is their ability to synthesize and secrete large amounts, relative to their size, of a limited number of metabolites. As such, they qualify as true cell factories, making them interesting targets for metabolic engineering. In this review, recent advances regarding terpene metabolic engineering are highlighted, with a special focus on tobacco (Nicotiana tabacum). In particular, the choice of transcriptional promoters to drive transgene expression and the best ways to sink existing pools of terpene precursors are discussed. The bioavailability of existing pools of natural precursor molecules is a key parameter and is controlled by so-called cross talk between different biosynthetic pathways. As highlighted in this review, the exact nature and extent of such cross talk are only partially understood at present. In the future, awareness of, and detailed knowledge on, the biology of plant glandular trichome development and metabolism will generate new leads to tap the largely unexploited potential of glandular trichomes in plant resistance to pests and lead to the improved production of specialized metabolites with high industrial or pharmacological value.

Concepts: DNA, Gene, Metabolism, Organism, Understanding, Nicotiana, Nicotiana tabacum, Trichome