Cell twisting during desiccation reveals axial asymmetry in wall organization

Sedighe Keynia, Thomas C. Davis, Daniel B. Szymanski, Joseph A. Turner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Plant cell size and shape are tuned to their function and specified primarily by cellulose microfibril (CMF) patterning of the cell wall. Arabidopsis thaliana leaf trichomes are unicellular structures that act as a physical defense to deter insect feeding. This highly polarized cell type employs a strongly anisotropic cellulose wall to extend and taper, generating sharply pointed branches. During elongation, the mechanisms by which shifts in fiber orientation generate cells with predictable sizes and shapes are unknown. Specifically, the axisymmetric growth of trichome branches is often thought to result from axisymmetric CMF patterning. Here, we analyzed the direction and degree of twist of branches after desiccation to reveal the presence of an asymmetric cell wall organization with a left-hand bias. CMF organization, quantified using computational modeling, suggests a limited reorientation of microfibrils during growth and a maximum branch length limited by the wall axial stiffness. The model provides a mechanism for CMF asymmetry, which occurs after the branch bending stiffness becomes low enough that ambient bending affects the principal stresses. After this stage, the CMF synthesis results in a constant bending stiffness for longer branches. The bending vibration natural frequencies of branches with respect to their length are also discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)932-942
Number of pages11
JournalBiophysical journal
Issue number6
StatePublished - Mar 15 2022


  • Arabidopsis trichome branch
  • cell twist
  • computational modeling
  • desiccation
  • mechanical properties

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biophysics


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