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The pollen tube: a soft shell with a hard core


Abstract

Plant cell expansion is controlled by a fine-tuned balance between intracellular turgor pressure, cell wall loosening and cell wall biosynthesis. To understand these processes, it is important to gain in-depth knowledge of cell wall mechanics. Pollen tubes are tip-growing cells that provide an ideal system to study mechanical properties at the single cell level. With the available approaches it was not easy to measure important mechanical parameters of pollen tubes, such as the elasticity of the cell wall. We used a cellular force microscope (CFM) to measure the apparent stiffness of lily pollen tubes. In combination with a mechanical model based on the finite element method (FEM), this allowed us to calculate turgor pressure and cell wall elasticity, which we found to be around 0.3 MPa and 20-90 MPa, respectively. Furthermore, and in contrast to previous reports, we showed that the difference in stiffness between the pollen tube tip and the shank can be explained solely by the geometry of the pollen tube. CFM, in combination with an FEM-based model, provides a powerful method to evaluate important mechanical parameters of single, growing cells. Our findings indicate that the cell wall of growing pollen tubes has mechanical properties similar to rubber. This suggests that a fully turgid pollen tube is a relatively stiff, yet flexible cell that can react very quickly to obstacles or attractants by adjusting the direction of growth on its way through the female transmitting tissue.

Abstract

Plant cell expansion is controlled by a fine-tuned balance between intracellular turgor pressure, cell wall loosening and cell wall biosynthesis. To understand these processes, it is important to gain in-depth knowledge of cell wall mechanics. Pollen tubes are tip-growing cells that provide an ideal system to study mechanical properties at the single cell level. With the available approaches it was not easy to measure important mechanical parameters of pollen tubes, such as the elasticity of the cell wall. We used a cellular force microscope (CFM) to measure the apparent stiffness of lily pollen tubes. In combination with a mechanical model based on the finite element method (FEM), this allowed us to calculate turgor pressure and cell wall elasticity, which we found to be around 0.3 MPa and 20-90 MPa, respectively. Furthermore, and in contrast to previous reports, we showed that the difference in stiffness between the pollen tube tip and the shank can be explained solely by the geometry of the pollen tube. CFM, in combination with an FEM-based model, provides a powerful method to evaluate important mechanical parameters of single, growing cells. Our findings indicate that the cell wall of growing pollen tubes has mechanical properties similar to rubber. This suggests that a fully turgid pollen tube is a relatively stiff, yet flexible cell that can react very quickly to obstacles or attractants by adjusting the direction of growth on its way through the female transmitting tissue.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:07 Faculty of Science > Department of Plant and Microbial Biology
07 Faculty of Science > Zurich-Basel Plant Science Center
Special Collections > SystemsX.ch
Special Collections > SystemsX.ch > Research, Technology and Development Projects > Plant Growth
Dewey Decimal Classification:570 Life sciences; biology
580 Plants (Botany)
Language:English
Date:2013
Deposited On:22 Feb 2013 15:06
Last Modified:05 Apr 2016 16:32
Publisher:Wiley-Blackwell
ISSN:0960-7412
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1111/tpj.12061
PubMed ID:23106269

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