he plant's pulvinus. The scientists believe that's because the pulvinus cells are communicating about whether cell organelles called amyloplasts have fallen to the bottom of the cells, pulled there by gravity. Boss says that the continued increase in InsP3 may allow a plant to determine whether it has been knocked to the ground, or is merely swaying in the wind.
That signaling continues for about 30 minutes in oats and between two to four hours in maize. During that time, the amount of InsP3 gradually increases in the lower half of the pulvinus. Then, the cells nearest the ground begin to elongate, the plant's pulvinus begins to bend like an elbow, and the plant starts to curl toward a vertical position.
"That delay makes sense. If a plant is on its side for a only few seconds, it doesn't need to grow upward," explained Perera, the NC State research associate. "Because the cell elongation is irreversible, the continued increase in inositol trisphosphate may be essential for the plants to differentiate between a transient stimulus swaying in the wind and a long-term stimulus falling down."
To test the role of InsP3 in this process, the researchers added a chemical to the plants to inhibit the plants' ability to make InsP3. As expected, the oat and maize plants placed on their side showed significantly less upward bending (about 60 percent less) than untreated plants without the chemical inhibitor added.
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Contact: Dr. Wendy Boss
North Carolina State University
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