, Volume 114, Issue 2, pp 143-157

Thigmomorphogenesis: The response of plant growth and development to mechanical stimulation

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Summary

When young plants of Hordeum vulgare. Bryonia dioica. Cucumis sativus. Phaseolus vulgaris. Mimosa pudica. and Ricinus communis. were given a gentle mechanical stimulus by rubbing the internodes for about 10 s once or twice daily, elongation was significantly retarded. Plants of Cucurbita pepo Pisum sativum and Triticum aestivum did not exhibit any such response. The initial response to rubbing was very rapid, elongation stopping less than 3 min after application of the stimulus. When the stimulus was discontinued after 7 days, elongation accelerated, reaching a normal or supernormal rate within 3 or 4 days. Mechanical stimulation also affected aspects of growth and development other than stem elongation. In Mimosa pudica, flower bud production was retarded, as was the growth of the tendrils, leaves, and petioles in Bryonia dioica. It is suggested that this response be called thigmomorphogenesis, and that it represents an adaptation designed to protect plants from the stresses produced by high winds and moving animals. Some evidence indicates that thigmomorphogenesis may be mediated by ethylene.