Mechanotransduction in root gravity sensing cells

Physiol Plant. 2004 Feb;120(2):303-11. doi: 10.1111/j.0031-9317.2004.0233.x.


The analysis of the dose-response curve of the gravitropic reaction of lentil seedling roots has shown that these organs are more sensitive when they have been grown in microgravity than when they have been grown on a 1 g centrifuge in space before gravistimulation. This difference of gravisensitivity is not due to the volume or the density of starch grains of statoliths, which are about the same in both conditions (1 g or microgravity). However, the distribution of statoliths within the statocyte may be responsible for this differential sensitivity, since the dispersion of these organelles is greater in microgravity than in 1 g. When lentil roots grown in microgravity or in 1 g are stimulated at 0.93 g for 22 min, the amyloplasts sediment following two different trajectories. They move from the proximal half of the statocytes toward the lower longitudinal wall in the microgravity grown sample and from the distal half toward the longitudinal wall in the 1 g grown sample. At the end of the stimulation, they reach a similar position within the statocytes. If the roots of both samples are left in microgravity for 3 h, the amyloplasts move toward the cell centre in a direction that makes an average angle of 40 degrees with respect to the lower longitudinal wall. The actin filaments, which are responsible for this movement, may have an overall orientation of 40 degrees with respect to this wall. Thus, when roots grown in microgravity are stimulated on the minicentrifuge the amyloplasts slide on the actin filaments, whereas they move perpendicular to them in 1 g grown roots. Our results suggest that greater sensitivity of seedling roots grown in microgravity should be due to greater dispersion of statoliths, to better contacts between statoliths and the actin network and to greater number of activated mechanoreceptors. One can hypothesize that stretch activated ion channels (SACs) located in the plasma membrane are responsible for the transduction of gravistimulus. These SACs may be connected together by elements of the cytoskeleton lining the plasma membrane and to the actin filaments. They could be stimulated by the action of statoliths on the actin network and/or on these elements of the cytoskeleton which link the mechanoreceptors (SACs).

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Actins
  • Centrifugation
  • Gravitropism
  • Gravity Sensing / physiology*
  • Ion Channels / physiology
  • Lens Plant / growth & development*
  • Lens Plant / ultrastructure
  • Plant Roots / growth & development*
  • Plant Roots / ultrastructure
  • Plastids / physiology
  • Space Flight*
  • Weightlessness Simulation*
  • Weightlessness*


  • Actins
  • Ion Channels