Journal Article

Effect of mechanical perturbation on the biomechanics, primary growth and secondary tissue development of inflorescence stems of <i>Arabidopsis thaliana</i>

Cloé Paul-Victor and Nick Rowe

in Annals of Botany

Published on behalf of The Annals of Botany Company

Volume 107, issue 2, pages 209-218
Published in print February 2011 | ISSN: 0305-7364
Published online November 2010 | e-ISSN: 1095-8290 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/aob/mcq227
Effect of mechanical perturbation on the biomechanics, primary growth and secondary tissue development of inflorescence stems of Arabidopsis thaliana

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  • Ecology and Conservation
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Background and Aims

Mechanical perturbation is known to inhibit elongation of the inflorescence stem of Arabidopsis thaliana. The phenomenon has been reported widely for both herbaceous and woody plants, and has implications for how plants adjust their size and form to survive in mechanically perturbed environments. While this response is an important aspect of the plant's architecture, little is known about how mechanical properties of the inflorescence stem are modified or how its primary and secondary tissues respond to mechanical perturbation.

Methods

Plants of the Columbia-0 ecotype were exposed to controlled brushing treatments and then submitted to three-point bending tests to determine stem rigidity and stiffness. Contributions of different tissues to the inflorescence stem geometry were analysed.

Key Results

Perturbed plants showed little difference in stem diameter, were 50 % shorter, 75 % less rigid and 70 % less stiff than controls. Changes in mechanical properties were linked to significant changes in tissue geometry – size and position of the pith, lignified interfascicular tissue and cortex – as well as a reduction in density of lignified cells. Stem mechanical properties were modified by changes in primary tissues and thus differ from changes observed in most woody plants tested with indeterminate growth – even though a vascular cambium is present in the inflorescence axis.

Conclusions

The study suggests that delayed development of key primary developmental features of the stem in this ecotype of Arabidopsis results in a ‘short and flexible’ rather than a ‘short and rigid’ strategy for maintaining upright axes in conditions of severe mechanical perturbation. The mechanism is comparable with more general phenomena in plants where changes in developmental rate can significantly affect the overall growth form of the plant in both ecological and evolutionary contexts.

Keywords: Arabidopsis thaliana; biomechanics; interfascicular extraxylary tissue; mechanical perturbation; stem rigidity and stiffness

Journal Article.  6425 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Ecology and Conservation ; Evolutionary Biology ; Plant Sciences and Forestry

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