Gravity, light and plant form


Roger P. Hangarter, Indiana University, Department of Biology, Jordan Hall, 142, Bloomington, IN 47405, USA.


Plants have evolved highly sensitive and selective mechanisms that detect and respond to various aspects of their environment. As a plant develops, it integrates the environmental information perceived by all of its sensory systems and adapts its growth to the prevailing environmental conditions. Light is of critical importance because plants depend on it for energy and, thus, survival. The quantity, quality and direction of light are perceived by several different photosensory systems that together regulate nearly all stages of plant development, presumably in order to maintain photosynthetic efficiency. Gravity provides an almost constant stimulus that is the source of critical spatial information about its surroundings and provides important cues for orientating plant growth. Gravity plays a particularly important role during the early stages of seedling growth by stimulating a negative gravitropic response in the primary shoot that orientates it towards the source of light, and a positive gravitropic response in the primary root that causes it to grow down into the soil, providing support and nutrient acquisition. Gravity also influences plant form during later stages of development through its effect on lateral organs and supporting structures. Thus, the final form of a plant depends on the cumulative effects of light, gravity and other environmental sensory inputs on endogenous developmental programs. This article is focused on developmental interactions modulated by light and gravity.