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J Exp Bot. 2009;60(1):43-56. doi: 10.1093/jxb/ern315. Epub 2008 Dec 16.

Thigmomorphogenesis: a complex plant response to mechano-stimulation.

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Rice University, Biochemistry and Cell Biology, 6100 Main St. Houston, TX 77005, USA.


In nature, plants are challenged with hurricane winds, monsoon rains, and herbivory attacks, in addition to many other harsh mechanical perturbations that can threaten plant survival. As a result, over many years of evolution, plants have developed very sensitive mechanisms through which they can perceive and respond to even subtle stimuli, like touch. Some plants respond behaviourally to the touch stimulus within seconds, while others show morphogenetic alterations over long periods of time, ranging from days to weeks. Various signalling molecules and phytohormones, including intracellular calcium, jasmonates, ethylene, abscisic acid, auxin, brassinosteroids, nitric oxide, and reactive oxygen species, have been implicated in touch responses. Many genes are induced following touch. These genes encode proteins involved in various cellular processes including calcium sensing, cell wall modifications, and defence. Twenty-three per cent of these up-regulated genes contain a recently identified promoter element involved in the rapid induction in transcript levels following mechanical perturbations. The employment of various genetic, biochemical, and molecular tools may enable elucidation of the mechanisms through which plants perceive mechano-stimuli and transduce the signals intracellularly to induce appropriate responses.

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