Lipid-Coated Nanobubbles in Plants
One of the more surprising occurrences of bulk nanobubbles is in the sap inside the vascular transport system of flowering plants, the xylem. In plants, nanobubbles are subjected to negative pressure in the water and to large pressure fluctuations, sometimes encompassing pressure changes of several MPa over the course of a single day, as well as wide temperature fluctuations. Here, we review the evidence for nanobubbles in plants and for polar lipids that coat them, allowing nanobubbles to persist in this dynamic environment. The review addresses how the dynamic surface tension of polar lipid monolayers allows nanobubbles to avoid dissolution or unstable expansion under negative liquid pressure. In addition, we discuss theoretical considerations about the formation of lipid-coated nanobubbles in plants from gas-filled spaces in the xylem and the role of mesoporous fibrous pit membranes between xylem conduits in creating the bubbles, driven by the pressure gradient between the gas and liquid phase. We discuss the role of surface charges in preventing nanobubble coalescence, and conclude by addressing a number of open questions about nanobubbles in plants.