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Licensed Unlicensed Requires Authentication Published by De Gruyter April 26, 2022

Bacterial decay in waterlogged archaeological compression wood varies with severity of compression wood

  • Jong Sik Kim ORCID logo EMAIL logo , Mi Young Cha , Kwang Ho Lee and Yoon Soo Kim
From the journal Holzforschung


Bacterial decay in compression wood (CW) tracheids of waterlogged archaeological wood (WAW) was investigated using light microscopy, confocal laser scanning microscopy, transmission electron microscopy (TEM), and TEM immunogold labeling. Erosion bacteria were identified as the main degraders, and the extent of cell wall degradation differed depending on the severity of CW tracheids (mild vs. severe). Mild CW tracheids showed preferential decay in the inner S2 layer, with the locally degraded and/or fragmented S3 layer remaining. In contrast, severe CW tracheids revealed gradual degradation of the cell wall from the erosion progressing from exposed faces of the cell wall as decay progressed. The overall decay was more extensive in mild than in severe CW tracheids, and degradation of the highly lignified outer S2 layer (S2L) was only detected in mild CW tracheids. TEM immunogold labeling of 1,4-β-galactan, homogalacturonan (HG), heteroxylan, and heteromannan epitopes showed that there was no preferential degradation of pectins and hemicelluloses by action of diffusible enzymes and/or agents through the un-decayed cell wall during bacterial decay, in both mild and severe CW tracheids. Inter-CW tracheid bordered pit membranes showed higher decay resistance than CW tracheid walls. Degradation of HG and heteromannan epitopes was suppressed in pit membranes.

Corresponding author: Jong Sik Kim, Department of Wood Science and Engineering, Chonnam National University, Gwangju 61186, Republic of Korea, E-mail:

Award Identifier / Grant number: NRF-2021R1F1A1063024


The authors gratefully acknowledge the National Research Institute of Maritime Cultural Heritage in the Republic of Korea for providing us with the Daebudo shipwreck no. 2 sample.

  1. Author contributions: All authors have accepted responsibility for the entire content of this submitted manuscript and approved submission.

  2. Research funding: This work was supported by the National Research Foundation of Korea (NRF) grant funded by the Korea government (MSIT) (no. NRF-2021R1F1A1063024).

  3. Conflict of interest statement: The authors declare no conflicts of interest regarding this article.


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Received: 2022-01-10
Accepted: 2022-04-05
Published Online: 2022-04-26
Published in Print: 2022-07-26

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