Physical forces are involved in the regulation of plant development and morphogenesis by translating mechanical stress into the modification of physiological processes, which, in turn, can affect cellular growth. Pollen tubes respond rapidly to external stimuli and provide an ideal system to study the effect of mechanical cues at the single‐cell level. Here, pollen tubes were exposed to mechanical stress while monitoring the reconfiguration of their growth and recording the generated forces in real‐time.
We combined a lab‐on‐a‐chip device with a microelectromechanical systems (MEMS)‐based capacitive force sensor to mimic and quantify the forces that are involved in pollen tube navigation upon confronting mechanical obstacles. Several stages of obstacle avoidance were identified, including force perception, growth adjustment and penetration.
We have experimentally determined the perceptive force threshold, which is the force threshold at which the pollen tube reacts to an obstacle, for Lilium longiflorum and Arabidopsis thaliana. In addition, the method we developed provides a way to calculate turgor pressure based on force and optical data.
Pollen tubes sense physical barriers and actively adjust their growth behavior to overcome them. Furthermore, our system offers an ideal platform to investigate intracellular activity during force perception and growth adaption in tip growing cells.