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An experimental study is described of the formation of extracellular deposits on the surfaces of cells in freeze-fractured, frozen-hydrated primary leaves of Phaseolus vulgaris examined by low-temperature scanning electron microscopy. The deposits, observed under a range of experimental conditions, consisted of (a) droplets with diameters of 1.5 to 3.0 μm, (b) droplets with diameters of 10 to 30 μm, (c) crystals with diameters of 1.0 to 6.0 μm, and (d) granules with diameters up to 0.15 μm. The types of deposit were influenced by specimen cooling rate, and their distribution was influenced by the direction of the thermal gradient during cooling. All deposits were predominantly water ice. The quantities of deposited water (up to 4.0% of the leaf water content) increased as the cooling rate was reduced. It is concluded that the ice deposits were primarily artefacts of cryofixation and do not represent the location of water in vivo, as recently suggested. We propose that the deposits arose in four main ways: (1) displacement of water from underlying cells by a pressure wave resulting from the volume increase of intracellular water as it freezes, (2) evaporation of water from warmer cells and its condensation onto colder cells, (3) withdrawal of water from underlying cells by extracellular ice crystallization, (4) condensation of pre-existing water vapour in the intercellular spaces onto cells. The significance of the findings is discussed in relation to the use of lowtemperature scanning electron microscopy in studies of plant morphology and for localizing water and soluble ions within plant cells and tissues. © 1987 Springer-Verlag.

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