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Environmental Cues

Plants depend on their immediate

environment for the materials and energy
they require for survival.
Plants are relatively tolerant of
environmental changes from which they
cannot escape.
Plant growth and reproduction are
synchronised with seasonal changes, and
with local physical and climate

The environment provides the cues for

many stages in plant growth (flowering,
ripening of fruit and seed germination) to
occur when conditions are ideal.
Plants also respond to gravity, light and
Communication between cells in the
plant is required so plant responses are
coordinated and controlled.
Plants control and coordinate their
response using hormones.

Hormonal Systems

A hormone is a chemical produced by a

specific cell(s) in an organism and move
throughout to stimulate other cells capable
of producing the desired response.
Hormones act as messengers between
cells to regulate function.
They control various metabolic functions
including rates of rxns, transport of
substances across membranes, secretion,
and growth.

They transmit their signal to specific cells

by altering specific biochemical reactions
in the cell (ie. Production of an enzyme,
turning on or off a gene).
The target cell has a specific receptor for
that hormone which causes it to be
Hormones work by interacting with a
receptor on the cell membrane or by
passing through the membrane directly
into the cell to trigger a biochemical event.
Hormones are effective even in low


Although hormones may pass through the entire

system, only those cells with the specific receptor are
able to respond to the hormone.
Few hormones affect the entire system, most target a
specific organ(s) and even only a specific type of cell
within that organ.
Plants have fewer hormones than animals, and often
their hormones are simpler and affect the entire
This is because plants have no system for transport
like the endocrine system. Plants have no glands and
their hormones are often produced as a direct result
of environmental stimuli (light, temperature etc.).


Hormonal effects are slower than nervous

system responses but often last longer.
Plant hormones move much slower as they have
to be transported a fair distance to where they
take effect in stimulating things such as
flowering or causing stems to bend.
Hormones are often transported using xylem
and phloem, from cell to cell and occasionally by
Movement of a plant hormone requires energy
(ATP molecules) for active transport which is
~10x faster than by diffusion but still very slow.

Hormones and Responses of

Flowering Plants

In flowering plants hormones orientate the

growth of roots, stems and leaves and the timing
of reproduction (flowering), fruit ripening and
seed germination.
A growth response is triggered by environmental
factors. When the direction of growth response is
related to the direction of the stimulis origin the
response is called a Tropism.
If a plant grows towards a stimulus its called
positive tropism, growth away from the stimulus
is a negative tropism.
Pg 265 Hormone responsibilities in plants.

Auxins: Phototropism
Reaching for the light

Plants often grow and bend towards a source

of light (positive phototropism).
This growth is stimulated by a chemical
called Auxin diffusing downward from the tip
of a growing grass shoot.
Auxin is produced continually in a growing tip
(meristem) and diffuses through layers of
cells as the tip has no vascular tissue.
Light interacts with the receptors that control
membrane permeability to auxin, thus the
auxin moves laterally away from the light.

This causes higher concentrations of auxin on

the side opposite the light source, which then
grows faster and causes the plant tip to
literally bend towards the light.
Auxins promote growth by working with
receptors in the specific growth region
causing a softening of cell walls allowing the
cells to elongate more rapidly under turgor
pressure (high internal fluid pressure), cells
outside the growing region appear to lack
these receptors.

Geotropism Responding to

Auxins are also involved in growth in

response to the forces of gravity.
Geotropism is the response to gravity.
Auxins actually cause negative
geotropism (cause the plant to grow the
opposite direction of gravity).
Auxin concentrations are always lower at
the base causing the plant to grow

Apical Dominance One Main


Auxins also affect lateral growth in plants.

Auxin is produced in the apical tip moves
down the stem and inhibits the growth of
lateral buds. This is a phenomenon called
apical dominance.
This leads to a taller plant with fewer side


Promote cell elongation, like auxins,

except they promote growth in the entire
Gibberellins are also an important factor
in promoting cell division, flowering in
some plants, fruit enlargement and seed
Gibberellins are synthesized in flowers,
developing fruits, seeds and actively
growing buds, and elongating stems.


In the presence of auxin, cytokinins

stimunlate cell division and cell
differentiation in plants. The ration between
auxin and cytokinins determines the path of
differentiation of new cells.
Stems and leaves develop when there is
more cytokinins, and roots develop when
there is more auxin.
Cytokinins are involved in many other
functions in plants, but cell division and
differentiation is the primary function.

Abscisic Acid (ABA)

These are the best known growthinhibiting hormones. They have the
opposite effect of auxins, gibberellins and
cytokinins and are particularly important
in regulation of plant function.
They help plants to tolerate adverse
conditions (drought, salinity, and low
temps) by promoting leaf drop, bud and
seed dormancy and increasing frost

Synthesized mainly in chloroplasts.

The dropping of ripe fruit, and unfertilized
flowers, and leaves in deciduous plants is
known as abscission and occurs as a result of
the disintegration of a special layers of cells at
the base of the organ being dropped due to
Development of seed dormancy and
vernalisation requires the presence of ABA to
cause gene expression in nuclei.
ABA also carries a message when too much
water is being lost to close guard cells. ABA is
increased particularly in times of drought, high
temperature and waterlogging.


The gas ethylene or ethene (C2H4) is a small

molecule, which is released by ripening fruit.
One of the effects is the stimulation of fruit
ripening. Ripening of fruit is accompanied by
colour change and softening of the flesh.
These changes help attract animals which
disperse the fruit and make it easy for seeds to
be released from the fruit.
Ethylene increases cellular respiration, breaking
down of starches and oils into sugars.
Ethylene production is stimulated by auxins and