Plant cell walls typically consist of crystalline microfibrils embedded in a non-crystalline matrix. The growing cylindrical Nitella cell wall contains microfibrils predominantly oriented in the transverse direction. The present study has shown that the transversely oriented microfibrils are primarily located toward the inner surface of the wall and that, proceeding outward from the inner surface, the wall contains microfibrils of ever poorer transverse orientation, the fibrils being randomly or axially arranged in the outermost regions of the wall. Because cell expansion is primarily in the axial direction, the texture of the fibrillar elements of the wall can be explained by assuming that new microfibrils of transverse orientation are added only at the inner surface of the wall and that they become passively reoriented to the axial direction during cell elongation. The described structure corresponds to that proposed by Roelofsen and Houwink for cells showing "multi-net growth." The demonstration of a continuous gradient of microfibrillar arrangement and its partial quantitative description was accomplished by the analysis, with the polarized light and interference microscopes, of wedge-like torn edges of developing cell walls which were 1 micron or less in optical thickness.

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