Application of optical topometry to analysis of the plant epidermis

Miranda J. Haus, Ryan D. Kelsch, Thomas W. Jacobs

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The plant epidermis regulates key physiological functions contributing to photosynthetic rate, plant productivity, and ecosystem stability. Yet, quantitative characterization of this interface between a plant and its aerial environment is laborious and destructive with current techniques, making large-scale characterization of epidermal cell parameters impractical. Here, we present our exploration of optical topometry (OT) for the analysis of plant organ surfaces. OT is a mature, confocal microscopy-based implementation of surface metrology that generates nanometer-scale digital characterizations of any surface. We report epidermal analyses in Arabidopsis (Arabidopsis thaliana) and other species as well as dried herbarium specimens and fossilized plants. We evaluate the technology’s analytical potential for identifying an array of epidermal characters, including cell type distributions, variation in cell morphology and stomatal depth, differentiation of herbarium specimens, and real-time deformations in living tissue following detachment. As applied to plant material, OT is very fast and nondestructive, yielding richly mineable data sets describing living tissues and rendering a variety of their characteristics accessible for statistical, quantitative genetic, and structural analysis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)946-959
Number of pages14
JournalPlant physiology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Sep 2015

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Genetics
  • Plant Science

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