Forisomes are elongate Ca2+-responsive contractile protein bodies and act as flow blocking gates within the phloem of legumes. Because an understanding of their mechanical properties in vitro underpins understanding of their physiology in vivo, we undertook, using a microcantilever method, microscopic tensile tests (incremental stress-relaxation measurements) on forisomes from Canavalia gladiata (Jacq.) DC Akanata Mame and Vicia faba L. Witkiem Major. Viscoelastic properties of forisomes in their longitudinal direction were investigated before and after Ca2+-induced contraction, but in the radial direction only before contraction. Forisomes showed mechanical properties typical of a biological material with a unidirectional fibrous structure, i.e. the modulus of elasticity in the direction of their fibers is much greater than in the radial direction. Creep data were collected in all tensile tests and fit with a three parameter viscoelastic model. The pre-contraction longitudinal elastic moduli of the forisomes were not differentiable between the two species (V. faba, 660 ± 360 kPa; C. gladiata, 600 ± 360 kPa). Both species showed a direction-dependent mechanical response: the elastic modulus was dramatically smaller in the radial direction than in the longitudinal direction, suggesting a weak protein cross-linking amongst longitudinal protein fibers. Activation of forisomes decreased forisome stiffness longitudinally, as evidenced by the loss of toe-region in the stress strain curve, suggesting that the forisome may have dispersed or disordered its protein structure in a controlled fashion. Contractile forces generated by single forisomes undergoing activation were also measured for V. faba (510 ± 390 nN) and C. gladiata (570 ± 310 nN).
- Sieve element
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