The International Journal of Developmental Biology

Int. J. Dev. Biol. 49: 665 - 674 (2005)

Vol 49, Issue 5-6

Special Issue: Plant Development

Plant tropisms: providing the power of movement to a sessile organism

Open Access | Published: 1 August 2005

C. Alex Esmon, Ullas V. Pedmale and Emmanuel Liscum*

University of Missouri-Columbia, Division of Biological Sciences, Columbia, Missouri, USA


In an attempt to compensate for their sessile nature, plants have developed growth responses to deal with the copious and rapid changes in their environment. These responses are known as tropisms and they are marked by a directional growth response that is the result of differential cellular growth and development in response to an external stimulation such as light, gravity or touch. While the mechanics of tropic growth and subsequent development have been the topic of debate for more than a hundred years, only recently have researchers been able to make strides in understanding how plants perceive and respond to tropic stimulations, thanks in large part to mutant analysis and recent advances in genomics. This paper focuses on the recent advances in four of the best-understood tropic responses and how each affects plant growth and development: phototropism, gravitropism, thigmotropism and hydrotropism. While progress has been made in deciphering the events between tropic stimulation signal perception and each characteristic growth response, there are many areas that remain unclear, some of which will be discussed herein. As has become evident, each tropic response pathway exhibits distinguishing characteristics. However, these pathways of tropic perception and response also have overlapping components ­ a fact that is certainly related to the necessity for pathway integration given the ever-changing environment that surrounds every plant.


phototropism, gravitropism, thigmotropism, hydrotropism

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