Plant Response to Stimuli | Plant Hormone | Root

Plant Response to Stimuli

Stimuli and a Stationary Life

Plants, being rooted to the ground
• Must respond to whatever environmental change comes their way

For example, the bending of a grass seedling toward light
• Begins with the plant sensing the direction, quantity, and color of the light

A potato left growing in darkness
• Will produce shoots that do not appear healthy, and will lack elongated roots

These are morphological adaptations for growing in darkness
• Collectively referred to as etiolation
(a) Before exposure to light. A dark-grown potato has tall, spindly stems and nonexpanded leaves—morphological adaptations that enable the shoots to penetrate the soil. The roots are short, but there is little need for water absorption because little water is lost by the shoots.

After the potato is exposed to light
• The plant undergoes profound changes called de-etiolation, in which shoots and roots grow normally

(b) After a week’s exposure to natural daylight. The potato plant begins to resemble a typical plant with broad green leaves, short sturdy stems, and long roots. This transformation begins with the reception of light by a specific pigment, phytochrome.

The Discovery of Plant Hormones

Any growth response
• That results in curvatures of whole plant organs toward or away from a stimulus is called a tropism • Is often caused by hormones

A Survey of Plant Hormones

In general, hormones control plant growth and development
• By affecting the division, elongation, and differentiation of cells

Plant hormones are produced in very low concentrations
• But a minute amount can have a profound effect on the growth and development of a plant organ

Light Response
Responses to light are critical for plant success  Light cues many key events in plant growth and development  Photomorphogenesis

• Is the effects of light on plant morphology (structure)

Plants not only detect the presence of light
• But also its direction, intensity, and wavelength (color)

A graph called an action spectrum
• Depicts the relative response of a process to different wavelengths of light

Action spectra
• Are useful in the study of any process that depends on light


Researchers exposed maize (Zea mays) coleoptiles to violet, blue, green, yellow, orange, and red light to test which wavelengths stimulate the phototropic bending toward light.

The graph below shows phototropic effectiveness (curvature per photon) relative to effectiveness of light with a wavelength of 436 nm. The photo collages show coleoptiles before and after 90-minute exposure to side lighting of the indicated colors. Pronounced curvature occurred only with wavelengths below 500 nm and was greatest with blue light.


The phototropic bending toward light is caused by a photoreceptor that is sensitive to blue and violet light, particularly blue light.

Research on action spectra and absorption spectra of pigments
• Led to the identification of two major classes of light receptors: blue-light photoreceptors and phytochromes

Blue-Light Photoreceptors

Various blue-light photoreceptors
• Control hypocotyl elongation, stomatal opening, and phototropism

Phytochromes as Photoreceptors

• Regulate many of a plant’s responses to light throughout its life

The Effect of Light on the Biological Clock

Phytochrome conversion marks sunrise and sunset
• Providing the biological clock with environmental cues

Photoperiodism and Responses to Seasons

Photoperiod, the relative lengths of night and day
• Is the environmental stimulus plants use most often to detect the time of year

• Is a physiological response to photoperiod

Photoperiodism and Control of Flowering

Some developmental processes, including flowering in many species
• Requires a certain photoperiod


During the 1940s, researchers conducted experiments in which periods of darkness were interrupted with brief exposure to light to test how the light and dark portions of a photoperiod affected flowering in “short-day” and “long-day” plants.
Darkness Flash of light Critical dark period Light

Critical Night Length
24 hours


(a) “Short-day” plants flowered only if a period of continuous darkness was longer than a critical dark period for that particular species (13 hours in this example). CONCLUSION

(b) “Long-day” plants flowered only if a period of continuous darkness was shorter than a critical dark period for that particular species (13 hours in this example).

The experiments indicated that flowering of each species was determined by a critical period of darkness (“critical night length”) for that species, not by a specific period of light. Therefore, “short-day” plants are more properly called “long-night” plants, and “long-day” plants are really “short-night” plants.


Response to gravity
• Is known as gravitropism

Roots show positive gravitropism
• Grow with gravity

Stems show negative gravitropism
• Grow against gravity

Plants may detect gravity by the settling of statoliths
• Specialized plastids containing dense starch grains

Statoliths 20 µm

Environmental Stresses

Environmental stresses
• Have a potentially adverse effect on a plant’s survival, growth, and reproduction • Can have a devastating impact on crop yields in agriculture


During drought
• Plants respond to water deficit by reducing transpiration • Deeper roots continue to grow


Enzymatic destruction of cells creates air tubes that help plants survive oxygen deprivation during flooding
Vascular cylinder

Air tubes


(a) Control root (aerated)

100 µm

100 µm (b) Experimental root (nonaerated)

Salt Stress

Plants respond to salt stress by producing solutes tolerated at high concentrations
• Keeping the water potential of cells more negative than that of the soil solution

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