Modelling the mechanics of plant growth

28 October 2010
Rosemary Dyson
Many growing plant cells undergo rapid axial elongation with negligible radial expansion. Growth is driven by high internal turgor pressure causing viscous stretching of the cell wall, with embedded cellulose microfibrils providing the wall with strongly anisotropic properties. We present a theoretical model of a growing cell, representing the primary cell wall as a thin axisymmetric fibre-reinforced viscous sheet supported between rigid end plates. Asymptotic reduction of the governing equations, under simple sets of assumptions about the fibre and wall properties, yields variants of the traditional Lockhart equation, which relates the axial cell growth rate to the internal pressure. The model provides insights into the geometric and biomechanical parameters underlying bulk quantities such as wall extensibility and shows how either dynamical changes in wall material properties or passive fibre reorientation may suppress cell elongation. We then investigate how the action of enzymes on the cell wall microstructure can lead to the required dynamic changes in macroscale wall material properties, and thus demonstrate a mechanism by which hormones may regulate plant growth.
  • Differential Equations and Applications Seminar