Root gravitropism: an experimental tool to investigate basic cellular and molecular processes underlying mechanosensing and signal transmission in plants

Annu Rev Plant Biol. 2002;53:421-47. doi: 10.1146/annurev.arplant.53.100301.135158.


The ability of plant organs to use gravity as a guide for growth, named gravitropism, has been recognized for over two centuries. This growth response to the environment contributes significantly to the upward growth of shoots and the downward growth of roots commonly observed throughout the plant kingdom. Root gravitropism has received a great deal of attention because there is a physical separation between the primary site for gravity sensing, located in the root cap, and the site of differential growth response, located in the elongation zones (EZs). Hence, this system allows identification and characterization of different phases of gravitropism, including gravity perception, signal transduction, signal transmission, and curvature response. Recent studies support some aspects of an old model for gravity sensing, which postulates that root-cap columellar amyloplasts constitute the susceptors for gravity perception. Such studies have also allowed the identification of several molecules that appear to function as second messengers in gravity signal transduction and of potential signal transducers. Auxin has been implicated as a probable component of the signal that carries the gravitropic information between the gravity-sensing cap and the gravity-responding EZs. This has allowed the identification and characterization of important molecular processes underlying auxin transport and response in plants. New molecular models can be elaborated to explain how the gravity signal transduction pathway might regulate the polarity of auxin transport in roots. Further studies are required to test these models, as well as to study the molecular mechanisms underlying a poorly characterized phase of gravitropism that is independent of an auxin gradient.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Biological Transport
  • Gravitropism*
  • Indoleacetic Acids / metabolism*
  • Plant Roots / growth & development
  • Plant Roots / physiology*
  • Signal Transduction*


  • Indoleacetic Acids