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Biomechanics Of Plant Growth.

P. Schopfer
Published 2006 · Biology, Medicine

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Growth of turgid cells, defined as an irreversible increase in cell volume and surface area, can be regarded as a physical process governed by the mechanical properties of the cell wall and the osmotic properties of the protoplast. Irreversible cell expansion is produced by creating a driving force for water uptake by decreasing the turgor through stress relaxation in the cell wall. This mechano-hydraulic process thus depends on and can be controlled by the mechanical properties of the wall, which in turn are subject to modification by wall loosening and wall stiffening reactions. The biochemical mechanisms of these changes in mechanical wall properties and their regulation by internal signals (e.g., hormones) or external signals (e.g., light, drought stress) are at present incompletely understood and subject to intensive research. These signals act on walls that have the properties of composite materials in which the molecular structure and spatial organization of polymers rather than the distribution of mechanical stresses dictate the allometry of cell and organ growth and thus cell and organ shape. The significance of cell wall architecture for allometric growth can be demonstrated by disturbing the oriented deposition of wall polymers with microtubule-interfering drugs such as colchicine. Elongating organs (e.g., cylindrical stems or coleoptiles) composed of different tissues with different mechanical properties exhibit longitudinal tissue tensions resulting in the transfer of wall stress from inner to peripheral cell layers that adopt control over organ growth. For physically analyzing the growth process leading to seed germination, the same mechanical and hydraulic parameters as in normal growth are principally appropriate. However, for covering the influences of the tissues that restrain embryo expansion (seed coat, endosperm), an additional force and a water permeability term must be considered.
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