Indexed on: 15 Jun '13Published on: 15 Jun '13Published in: Journal of Microscopy
Wood cell walls fluoresce as a result of UV and visible light excitation due to the presence of lignin. Fluorescence spectroscopy has revealed characteristic spectral differences in various wood types, notably normal and compression wood. In order to extend this method of characterising cell walls we examined the fluorescence lifetime of wood cell walls using TCSPC (Time-Correlated Single Photon Counting) as a method of potentially detecting differences in lignin composition and measuring the molecular environment within cell walls. The fluorescence decay curves of both normal and compression wood from pine contain three exponential decay components with a mean lifetime of τm = 473 ps in normal wood and 418 ps in compression wood. Lifetimes are spatially resolved to different cell wall layers or cell types where individual lifetimes are shown to have a log-normal distribution. The differences in fluorescence lifetime observed in pine compression wood compared to normal wood, are associated with known differences in cell wall composition such as increased p-hydroxyphenyl content in lignin as well as novel deposition of β(1,4)-Galactan. Our results indicate increased deposition of lignin fluorophores with shorter lifetimes in the outer secondary wall of compression wood. We have demonstrated the usefulness of fluorescence lifetime imaging for characterising wood cell walls, offering some advantages over conventional fluorescence imaging/spectroscopy. For example, we have measured significant changes in fluorescence lifetime resulting from changes to lignin composition as a result of compression wood formation that complement similar changes in fluorescence intensity.