, Volume 163, Issue 3, pp 381-390

First online:

Mechanics of circadian pulvini movements in Phaseolus coccineus L.

Shape and arrangement of motor cells, micellation of motor cell walls, and bulk moduli of extensibility (\(\bar \varepsilon _s \))
  • W. -E. MayerAffiliated withInstitut für Biologie I der Universität
  • , D. FlachAffiliated withInstitut für Biologie I der Universität
  • , M. V. S. RajuAffiliated withInstitut für Biologie I der Universität
  • , N. StarrachAffiliated withInstitut für Biologie I der Universität
  • , E. WiechAffiliated withInstitut für Biologie I der Universität

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The circadian movement of the lamina of primary leaves of Phaseolus coccineus L. is mediated by antagonistic changes in the length of the extensor and flexor cells of the laminar pulvinus. The cortex of the pulvinus is a concentric structure composed of hexagonal disc-like cells, arranged in longitudinal rows around the central stele. Observations with polarization optics indicate that the cellulose microfibrils are oriented in a hoop-like fashion in the longitudinal walls of the motor cells. This micellation is the structural basis of the anisotropic properties of the cells: tangential sections of the extensor and flexor placed in hypotonic mannitol solutions showed changes only in length. As a consequence a linear correlation between length and volume was found in these sections. Based on the relationship between the water potential (which is changed by different concentrations of mannitol) and the relative volume of the sections and on the osmotic pressure at 50% incipient plasmolysis, osmotic diagrams were constructed for extensor and flexor tissues (cut during night position of the pulvinus). The bulk moduli of extensibility, \(\bar \varepsilon _s \), were estimated from these diagrams. Under physiological conditions the \(\bar \varepsilon _s \) values were rather low (in extensor tissue below 10 bar, in flexor tissue between 10 to 15 bar), indicating a high extensibility of the longitudinal walls of the motor cells. They are strongly dependent on the turgor pressure at the limits of the physiological pressure range.

In well-watered plants, the water potentials of the extensor and flexor tissues were surprisingly low,-12 bar and-8 bar, respectively. This means that the cells in situ are by no means fully turgid. On the contrary, the cell volume in situ is similar to the volume at the point of incipient plasmolysis: the cell volumes of extensor and flexor cells in situ were only 1.01 times and 1.1 times larger, respectively, than at the point of incipient plasmolysis, whereas at full turgidity (cells in water) the corresponding factors were 1.8 and 1.5. It is suggested that the high elasticity of the longitudinal walls, the anisotropy of the cell walls, and the low water potential of the sections which is correlated with slightly stretched cell walls in situ, are favourable and effective for converting osmotic work in changes in length of the pulvinus cells, and thus for the up and down movement of the leaf.

Key words

Circadian leaf movement Cell wall (extensibility) Micellation (motor cell walls) Motor cells Osmotic diagram Phaseolus (leaf movement) Pulvinus