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Dev Biol. 1997 Jan 15;181(2):246-56.

Mechanical signals in plant development: a new method for single cell studies.

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Botany Department, University of Vermont, Burlington 05405-0086, USA.
U VT, Burlington


Cell division, which is critical to plant development and morphology, requires the orchestration of hundreds of intracellular processes. In the end, however, cells must make critical decisions, based on a discrete set of mechanical signals such as stress, strain, and shear, to divide in such a way that they will survive the mechanical loads generated by turgor pressure and cell enlargement within the growing tissues. Here we report on a method whereby tobacco protoplasts swirled into a 1.5% agarose entrapment medium will survive and divide. The application of a controlled mechanical load to agarose blocks containing protoplasts orients the primary division plane of the embedded cells. Photoelastic analysis of the agarose entrapment medium can identify the lines of principal stress within the agarose, confirming the hypothesis that cells divide either parallel or perpendicular to the principal stress tensors. The coincidence between the orientation of the new division wall and the orientation of the principal stress tensors suggests that the perception of mechanical stress is a characteristic of individual plant cells. The ability of a cell to determine a shear-free orientation for a new partition wall may be related to the applied load through the deformation of the matrix material. In an isotropic matrix a uniaxial load will produce a rotationally symmetric strain field, which will define a shear-free plane. Where high stress intensities combine with the loading geometry to produce multiaxial loads there will be no axis of rotational symmetry and hence no shear free plane. This suggests that two mechanisms may be orienting the division plane, one a mechanism that works in rotationally symmetrical fields, yielding divisions perpendicular to the compressive tensor, parallel to the long axis of the cell, and one in asymmetric fields, yielding divisions parallel to the short axis of the cell and the compressive tensor.

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