The newly extended maize internode: a model for the study of secondary cell wall formation and consequences for digestibility

Lorraine Scobbie, Gordon Provan, Wendy Roslyn Russell, Andrew Chesson

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61 Citations (Scopus)


The upper five internodes were collected from maize (Zea mays L) inbred cell lines Co 125 and W401 harvested at the same developmental stage, 5 days after silking. Each internode was dissected into ten equal lengths labelled A (top) to J (base). The youngest cells were found in section J, which contained the intercalary meristem, and the oldest in section A. Internodes 1, 3 and 5 provided material for chemical analysis and internodes 2 and 4 for degradability measurements. Cell wall material accounted for one-third of dry matter in section J, doubling to two-thirds in the upper half of each internode. Only section J exhibited a polysaccharide profile typical of primary cell walls. In all other sections, 1,4-linked glucose (± 46% of cell wall) and xylan largely free from side chains (± 25% of cell wall) predominated. Net accretion of cell wall polysaccharide reached a maximum by segment G and thereafter little additional carbohydrate was deposited. Lignification appeared to be separated from the biogenesis of structural carbohydrate and continued over much of each internode reaching a maximum in section C. Degradability measurements, made using a modified neutral-detergent cellulase digestibility method, showed substantial differences between sections. In line Co 125, cell wall degradability fell from over 95% in the youngest section (J) to approximately 24% in section B. Internode 4 of line W401 failed to show the same pattern of degradabilities, probably because of a sequential rather than simultaneous pattern of internode elongation. Saponifiable p-coumaric acid appeared to provide a more sensitive marker than lignin of the extent of secondary wall development. The inverse relationship between extent of lignification in each section and its degradability confirmed the value of the internode model for the study of secondary wall formation and its biological consequences.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)217-225
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of the Science of Food and Agriculture
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1993


  • maize
  • internode
  • cell wall
  • composition
  • degradability
  • lignin
  • phenolic acids
  • secondary cell wall
  • biogenesis


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