Research ArticlePLANT SCIENCES

Touch-induced seedling morphological changes are determined by ethylene-regulated pectin degradation

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Science Advances  27 Nov 2020:
Vol. 6, no. 48, eabc9294
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.abc9294


How mechanical forces regulate plant growth is a fascinating and long-standing question. After germination underground, buried seedlings have to dynamically adjust their growth to respond to mechanical stimulation from soil barriers. Here, we designed a lid touch assay and used atomic force microscopy to investigate the mechanical responses of seedlings during soil emergence. Touching seedlings induced increases in cell wall stiffness and decreases in cell elongation, which were correlated with pectin degradation. We revealed that PGX3, which encodes a polygalacturonase, mediates touch-imposed alterations in the pectin matrix and the mechanics of morphogenesis. Furthermore, we found that ethylene signaling is activated by touch, and the transcription factor EIN3 directly associates with PGX3 promoter and is required for touch-repressed PGX3 expression. By uncovering the link between mechanical forces and cell wall remodeling established via the EIN3-PGX3 module, this work represents a key step in understanding the molecular framework of touch-induced morphological changes.

This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial license, which permits use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, so long as the resultant use is not for commercial advantage and provided the original work is properly cited.

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