On the mechanical origins of waving, coiling and skewing in Arabidopsis thaliana roots

Amir Porat, Arman Tekinalp, Yashraj Bhosale, Mattia Gazzola*, Yasmine Meroz*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


By masterfully balancing directed growth and passive mechanics, plant roots are remarkably capable of navigating complex heterogeneous environments to find resources. Here, we present a theoretical and numerical framework which allows us to interrogate and simulate the mechanical impact of solid interfaces on the growth pattern of plant organs. We focus on the well-known waving, coiling, and skewing patterns exhibited by roots of Arabidopsis thaliana when grown on inclined surfaces, serving as a minimal model of the intricate interplay with solid substrates. By modeling growing slender organs as Cosserat rods that mechanically interact with the environment, our simulations verify hypotheses of waving and coiling arising from the combination of active gravitropism and passive root-plane responses. Skewing is instead related to intrinsic twist due to cell file rotation. Numerical investigations are outfitted with an analytical framework that consistently relates transitions between straight, waving, coiling, and skewing patterns with substrate tilt angle. Simulations are found to corroborate theory and recapitulate a host of reported experimental observations, thus providing a systematic approach for studying in silico plant organs behavior in relation to their environment.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere2312761121
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number11
StatePublished - 12 Mar 2024


FundersFunder number
Horizon 2020
Human Frontier Science ProgramRGY0078/2019
Human Frontier Science Program
National Science Foundation1846752
National Science Foundation
Office of Naval Research2209322, MURI N00014-19-1-2373, ACI-1548562, TG-MCB190004, 1830881
Office of Naval Research
Horizon 2020 Framework Programme824074
Horizon 2020 Framework Programme
Israel Science Foundation1981/14
Israel Science Foundation


    • mechanics
    • morpho-elasticity
    • pattern formation
    • plants
    • tropism


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