Modes of deformation of walled cells

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

24 Scopus citations


The bewildering morphological diversity found in cells is one of the starkest illustrations of life's ability to self-organize. Yet the morphogenetic mechanisms that produce the multifarious shapes of cells are still poorly understood. The shared similarities between the walled cells of prokaryotes, many protists, fungi, and plants make these groups particularly appealing to begin investigating how morphological diversity is generated at the cell level. In this review, I attempt a first classification of the different modes of surface deformation used by walled cells. Five modes of deformation were identified: inextensional bending, equi-area shear, elastic stretching, processive intussusception, and chemorheological growth. The two most restrictive modes - inextensional and equi-area deformations - are embodied in the exine of pollen grains and the wall-like pellicle of euglenoids, respectively. For these modes, it is possible to express the deformed geometry of the cell explicitly in terms of the undeformed geometry and other easily observable geometrical parameters. The greatest morphogenetic power is reached with the processive intussusception and chemorheological growth mechanisms that underlie the expansive growth of walled cells. A comparison of these two growth mechanisms suggests a possible way to tackle the complexity behind wall growth.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4684-4695
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Experimental Botany
Issue number15
StatePublished - Nov 2013


  • Cell mechanics
  • Cell wall
  • Chemorheology
  • Equi-area deformation
  • Euglena
  • Inextensional deformations
  • Intussusception
  • Morphogenesis
  • Pollen grains
  • Prokaryotes
  • S-layer
  • Tip growth
  • Turgor pressure


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