Regulation of plant cell wall stiffness by mechanical stress: a mesoscale physical model.

Hadrien Oliveri, Jan Traas, Christophe Godin & Olivier Ali

J. Math. Biol., pp.1-29. (2018)


A crucial question in developmental biology is how cell growth is coordinated in liv- ing tissue to generate complex and reproducible shapes. We address this issue here in plants, where stiff extracellular walls prevent cell migration and morphogenesis mostly results from growth driven by turgor pressure. How cells grow in response to pressure partly depends on the mechanical properties of their walls, which are gener- ally heterogeneous, anisotropic and dynamic. The active control of these properties is therefore a cornerstone of plant morphogenesis. Here, we focus on wall stiffness, which is under the control of both molecular and mechanical signaling. Indeed, in plant tis- sues, the balance between turgor and cell wall elasticity generates a tissue-wide stress field. Within cells, mechano-sensitive structures, such as cortical microtubules, adapt their behavior accordingly and locally influence cell wall remodeling dynamics. To fully apprehend the properties of this feedback loop, modeling approaches are indis- pensable. To that end, several modeling tools in the form of virtual tissues have been developed. However, these models often relate mechanical stress and cell wall stiffness in relatively abstract manners, where the molecular specificities of the various actors are not fully captured. In this paper, we propose to refine this approach by including parsimonious biochemical and biomechanical properties of the main molecular actors involved. Through a coarse-grained approach and through finite element simulations, we study the role of stress-sensing microtubules on organ-scale mechanics.