, Volume 121, Issue 5, pp 509-519
Date: 18 Jul 2008

Unique ethylene-regulated touch responses of Arabidopsis thaliana roots to physical hardness

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Abstract

Although touch responses of plant roots are an important adaptive behavior, the molecular mechanism remains unclear. We have developed a bioassay for measuring root-bending responses to physical hardness in Arabidopsis thaliana seedlings. Our test requires a two-layer solid medium. Primary roots growing downward through an upper layer of 0.3% phytagel either penetrate the lower layer or bend along an interface between the upper and lower layers with different concentrations (0.2–0.5%, corresponding to 1.57–6.79 gw mm−2 in hardness). In proportion to increasing hardness of the lower layer, we found that the percentage of bending roots increased and ethylene production decreased, suggesting an inverse relationship between the root-bending response and ethylene production. Studies with ethylene biosynthesis modulators and mutants also suggested that bending and non-bending responses of roots to medium hardness depend, respectively, on decreased and increased ethylene biosynthesis. In addition, the degrees of root-tip softening and differential root-cell growth, both possible factors determining root-bending response, were enhanced and attenuated by decreased and increased amounts of ethylene, respectively—also in bending roots and non-bending roots. Our findings indicate that ethylene regulates root touch responses, probably through a combination of root-tip softening (or hardening) and differential root-cell growth.