Ascorbic acid and xylem development in trunks of the Siberian larch trees
The contents of ascorbic acid (AA) and its oxidized form, dehydroascorbic acid (DHA), were assessed as related to the tracheid differentiation in the course of early and late wood development in the Siberian larch (Larix sibirica Ldb.) trees. The samples of the cambium, cell enlargement zone and mature cells were collected at the successive developmental stages by scraping tissues off layer by layer from trunk segments of the 20-year-old trees according to anatomical and histochemical criteria. While cambium initials were rapidly dividing, the AA contents per dry weight and per cell considerably exceeded the corresponding values characteristic of the late xylem development; such difference corresponded to the higher number of early tracheids per annual ring, as compared to the late tracheids. The AA content decreased as cells enlarged. The radial growth of the early wood tracheids, as compared to the late wood tracheids, was accompanied with a threefold increase in the AA and a decline in the DHA contents. The AA/DHA ratio was in line with the early tracheid enlargement. The maximum AA content was observed at the early stage of the secondary cell wall thickening in the tracheids of early and late xylem preceding lignification. During this stage of early wood development, the DHA content exceeded sixfold the corresponding value in the late xylem; as a result, the initial rates of lignification were different in two tissues. The rate of lignification in a newly developing layer of the early xylem increased gradually and was the highest in the completely differentiated tracheids. In the late xylem, the lignification rate was at its highest at the very beginning and then declined in the course of tracheid maturation. The dissimilar patterns of lignification in the early and late xylem were primarily associated with the DHA content, which increased in the early xylem and decreased in the maturing late xylem. Thus, the AA content and its accessibility to oxidation in the growing and mature xylem cells exhibited the diverse developmental patterns in the early and late xylem: two tissues differed in the tracheid number and radial diameter as well as in the rate of lignification.