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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Rapid and dynamic subcellular reorganization following mechanical stimulation of Arabidopsis epidermal cells mimics responses to fungal and oomycete attack

Adrienne R Hardham1*, Daigo Takemoto12 and Rosemary G White3

Author Affiliations

1 Plant Cell Biology Group, Research School of Biological Sciences, The Australian National University, Canberra, ACT 2601, Australia

2 Plant Pathology Laboratory, Graduate School of Bioagricultural Sciences, Nagoya University, Chikusa, Nagoya, 464-8601, Japan

3 Division of Plant Industry, C.S.I.R.O., Canberra, ACT 2601, Australia

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BMC Plant Biology 2008, 8:63  doi:10.1186/1471-2229-8-63

Published: 2 June 2008



Plant cells respond to the presence of potential fungal or oomycete pathogens by mounting a basal defence response that involves aggregation of cytoplasm, reorganization of cytoskeletal, endomembrane and other cell components and development of cell wall appositions beneath the infection site. This response is induced by non-adapted, avirulent and virulent pathogens alike, and in the majority of cases achieves penetration resistance against the microorganism on the plant surface. To explore the nature of signals that trigger this subcellular response and to determine the timing of its induction, we have monitored the reorganization of GFP-tagged actin, microtubules, endoplasmic reticulum (ER) and peroxisomes in Arabidopsis plants – after touching the epidermal surface with a microneedle.


Within 3 to 5 minutes of touching the surface of Arabidopsis cotyledon epidermal cells with fine glass or tungsten needles, actin microfilaments, ER and peroxisomes began to accumulate beneath the point of contact with the needle. Formation of a dense patch of actin was followed by focusing of actin cables on the site of contact. Touching the cell surface induced localized depolymerization of microtubules to form a microtubule-depleted zone surrounding a dense patch of GFP-tubulin beneath the needle tip. The concentration of actin, GFP-tubulin, ER and peroxisomes remained focused on the contact site as the needle moved across the cell surface and quickly dispersed when the needle was removed.


Our results show that plant cells can detect the gentle pressure of a microneedle on the epidermal cell surface and respond by reorganizing subcellular components in a manner similar to that induced during attack by potential fungal or oomycete pathogens. The results of our study indicate that during plant-pathogen interactions, the basal defence response may be induced by the plant's perception of the physical force exerted by the pathogen as it attempts to invade the epidermal cell surface.