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J Exp Bot. 2012 May;63(9):3339-51. doi: 10.1093/jxb/err334. Epub 2012 Jan 5.

Diel patterns of leaf and root growth: endogenous rhythmicity or environmental response?

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Forschungszentrum Jülich, IBG-2: Plant Sciences, Wilhelm-Johnen-Strasse, Jülich, Germany.


Plants are sessile organisms forced to adjust to their surrounding environment. In a single plant the photoautotrophic shoot is exposed to pronounced environmental variations recurring in a day-night 24 h (diel) cycle, whereas the heterotrophic root grows in a temporally less fluctuating environment. The contrasting habitats of shoots and roots are reflected in different diel growth patterns and their responsiveness to environmental stimuli. Differences between diel leaf growth patterns of mono- and dicotyledonous plants correspond to their different organization and placement of growth zones. In monocots, heterotrophic growth zones are organized linearly and protected from the environment by sheaths of older leaves. In contrast, photosynthetically active growth zones of dicot leaves are exposed directly to the environment and show characteristic, species-specific diel growth patterns. It is hypothesized that the different exposure to environmental constraints and simultaneously the sink/source status of the growing organs may have induced distinct endogenous control of diel growth patterns in roots and leaves of monocot and dicot plants. Confronted by strong temporal fluctuations in environment, the circadian clock may facilitate robust intrinsic control of leaf growth in dicot plants.

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