IONIC SIGNALING IN PLANT GRAVITY AND TOUCH RESPONSES
Plant roots are optimized to exploit resources from the soil and as each root explores this environment it will encounter a range of biotic and abiotic stimuli to which it must respond. Therefore, each root must possess a sensory array capable of monitoring and integrating these diverse stimuli to direct the appropriate growth response. Touch and gravity represent two of the biophysical stimuli that plants must integrate. As sensing both of these signals requires mechano-transduction of biophysical forces to biochemical signaling events, it is likely that they share signal transduction elements. These common signaling components may allow for cross-talk and so integration of thigmotropic and gravitropic responses. Indeed, signal transduction events in both plant touch and gravity sensing are thought to include Ca2+- and pH-dependent events. Additionally, it seems clear that the systems responsible for root touch and gravity response interact to generate an integrated growth response. Thus, primary and lateral roots of Arabidopsis respond to mechanical stimuli by eliciting tropic growth that is likely part of a growth strategy employed by the root to circumvent obstacles in the soil. Also, the mechano-signaling induced by encountering an obstacle apparently down-regulates the graviperception machinery to allow this kind of avoidance response. The challenge for future research will be to define how the cellular signaling events in the root cap facilitate this signal integration and growth regulation. In addition, whether other stimuli are likewise integrated with the graviresponse via signal transduction system cross-talk is an important question that remains to be answered.