The effect of coumarin on the root growth was studied on roots from intact plants, isolated roots and isolated elongating zones. All material was cultivated aseptically. A new method was developed for sterile culture of intact plants in flowing nutrient medium.
The effects on cell division and cell elongation were studied separately. An effect on both these processes can be established at all concentrations that affect the root growth. The concentration-growth curve has an “all-or-none” appearance.
Coumarin inhibits the transverse divisions in all cell layers; the perivascular layers seem to be more sensitive. Also the mitotic activity that is involved in the initiation of laterals is inhibited. The longitudinal divisions within the stele are enhanced.
Coumarin decreases the cell length in all cell layers, most likely with greater relative sensitivity in the perivascular layers. Studies on the time course of cell elongation in both attached corn roots and isolated elongating zones reveal that the decrease in cell length is caused exclusively by a decrease in the maximal rate of elongation, whereas the duration of the elongation is unchanged.
With each decrease of the cell length, the cell diameter is increased. The two changes are intimately connected within the greater part of the active region of concentration. Studies on the time course of the radial expansion in isolated elongating zones show a strict connection in time between cell elongation and radial expansion.
The radial expansion leads to unchanged or increased cell volume at most concentrations and for most cell types.
Coumarin causes an inhibition of the longitudinally directed processes and a stimulation of the radially directed ones. This is interpreted as indicating that the formative system is disengaged or reorientated, i.e., the polarity of the cells is changed.
Through experiments partly with isolated elongating zones and partly by disruption of the linear phase by means of mannitol, the inhibitory effect of coumarin could be localized to the first non-linear phase of the elongation.
The results were compared with earlier findings in the literature. The microtubuli are proposed as a conceivable main Component in the formative system common to both cell division and cell elongation. These are assumed to be affected by changes in the SH/SS balance produced by coumarin.