Mechanics and hydraulics of pollen tube growth

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19 Scopus citations


All kingdoms of life have evolved tip-growing cells able to mine their environment or deliver cargo to remote targets. The basic cellular processes supporting these functions are understood in increasing detail, but the multiple interactions between them lead to complex responses that require quantitative models to be disentangled. Here, I review the equations that capture the fundamental interactions between wall mechanics and cell hydraulics starting with a detailed presentation of James Lockhart’s seminal model. The homeostatic feedbacks needed to maintain a steady tip velocity are then shown to offer a credible explanation for the pulsatile growth observed in some tip-growing cells. Turgor pressure emerges as a central variable whose role in the morphogenetic process has been a source of controversy for more than 50 yr. I argue that recasting Lockhart’s work as a process of chemical stress relaxation can clarify how cells control tip growth and help us internalise the important but passive role played by turgor pressure in the morphogenetic process.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1549-1565
Number of pages17
JournalNew Phytologist
Issue number4
StatePublished - Nov 2021


  • Lockhart Equation
  • cell hydraulics
  • cell morphogenesis
  • pollen tubes
  • polymer physics
  • pulsatile growth
  • tip growth
  • wall expansion


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