Microtubules and morphogenesis in stomata of Azolla


Microtubules and morphogenesis in stomata of the water fern Azolla, an unusual mode of guard cell and pore development

by Busby C. H., Gunning B. E. S. (1984)

in Protoplasma 122, 108-119. – doi:10.1007/BF01279443 –



A mature stomate of the water fern Azolla consists of a single apparently unspecialized annular guard cell (GC) with two nuclei surrounding an elongated pore aligned longitudinally in the leaf.

During development, the guard mother cell develops a preprophase band (PPB) of microtubules (MTs) oriented transverse to the leaf axis. This is followed by a cell plate which fuses with the parental walls at the PPB site. Subsequently only the central part of the cell plate is consolidated, while the parts to either side become perforated and tenuous and may disperse completely, forming a single composite GC.

Meanwhile, a dense array of MTs appears along both faces of the central part of the new wall, oriented normal to the leaf surface. Further MT arrays radiate out across the periclinal walls from the region of the consolidated cell plate. Putative MT nucleating sites are seen along the cell edges between these anticlinal and periclinal arrays. Polarized light microscopy reveals cellulose deposition parallel to the periclinal MT arrays.

At the same time lamellar material is deposited within the new anticlinal wall. As the GC complex elongates, a split appears in these lamellae creating an initially transverse slit which then opens up to become first circular and ultimately an elongated pore aligned in the long axis of the leaf,i.e., at right angles to the wall in which it originated.

The radiating pattern of cellulose microfibrils in the periclinal walls contributes to the shaping of the pore. Elongation at the apical and basal ends of the GC is restricted by longitudinal microfibril orientation, while that at the sides is facilitated by transverse alignment.


Published by

Willem Van Cotthem

Honorary Professor of Botany, University of Ghent (Belgium). Scientific Consultant for Desertification and Sustainable Development.

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