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Daisies (Bellis perennis) facing the sun after opening in the morning showing heliotropism A Gaenseblume4.JPG
Daisies ( Bellis perennis ) facing the sun after opening in the morning showing heliotropism
Phycomyces, a fungus, exhibiting phototropism Phycomyces3.JPG
Phycomyces , a fungus, exhibiting phototropism

A tropism (from Ancient Greek τρόπος (trópos) 'a turn, way, manner, style, etc.',and -ism ) is a biological phenomenon, indicating growth or turning movement of a biological organism, usually a plant, in response to an environmental stimulus. In tropisms, this response is dependent on the direction of the stimulus (as opposed to nastic movements which are non-directional responses). Viruses and other pathogens also affect what is called "host tropism", "tissue tropism", or "cell tropism"; in which case tropism refers to the way in which different viruses/pathogens have evolved to preferentially target specific host species, specific tissue, or specific cell types within those species. Tropisms are usually named for the stimulus involved (for example, a phototropism is a reaction to sunlight) and may be either positive (towards the stimulus) or negative (away from the stimulus). [1] Positive tropisms, which are the majority of tropisms, are called "orthotropisms", and negative tropisms are called "plagiotropisms". [2]


Tropisms occur in three sequential steps. First, there is a sensation to a stimulus, which is usually beneficial to the plant. Next, signal transduction occurs. And finally, the directional growth response occurs.

Tropisms are typically associated with plants (although not necessarily restricted to them). [lower-alpha 1] Where an organism is capable of directed physical movement (motility), movement or activity in response to a specific stimulus is more likely to be regarded by behaviorists as a taxis (directional response) or a kinesis (non-directional response).

In English, the word tropism is used to indicate an action done without cognitive thought: However, "tropism" in this sense has a proper, although non-scientific, meaning as an innate tendency, natural inclination, or propensity to act in a certain manner towards a certain stimulus.

In botany, the Cholodny–Went model, proposed in 1927, is an early model describing tropism in emerging shoots of monocotyledons, including the tendencies for the stalk to grow towards light (phototropism) and the roots to grow downward (gravitropism). In both cases the directional growth is considered to be due to asymmetrical distribution of auxin, a plant growth hormone. [3]


In plants (and bacteria)

Example of gravitropism in the remains of a cellar of a Roman villa in the Archeologic Park in Baia, Italy Upsidedown-tree.JPG
Example of gravitropism in the remains of a cellar of a Roman villa in the Archeologic Park in Baia, Italy

In viruses

See also


  1. For example, some cells may not be conducive for the growth of a virus, which determines its tropism. The stimulus of light on insects may also be seen as a type of ethological tropism.

Related Research Articles

Plant hormone Chemical compounds that regulate plant growth and development

Plant hormones are signal molecules, produced within plants, that occur in extremely low concentrations. Plant hormones control all aspects of plant growth and development, from embryogenesis, the regulation of organ size, pathogen defense, stress tolerance and through to reproductive development. Unlike in animals each plant cell is capable of producing hormones. Went and Thimann coined the term "phytohormone" and used it in the title of their 1937 book.

A taxis is the movement of an organism in response to a stimulus such as light or the presence of food. Taxes are innate behavioural responses. A taxis differs from a tropism in that in the case of taxis, the organism has motility and demonstrates guided movement towards or away from the stimulus source. It is sometimes distinguished from a kinesis, a non-directional change in activity in response to a stimulus.

Auxin Plant hormone

Auxins are a class of plant hormones with some morphogen-like characteristics. Auxins play a cardinal role in coordination of many growth and behavioral processes in plant life cycles and are essential for plant body development. The Dutch biologist Frits Warmolt Went first described auxins and their role in plant growth in the 1920s. Kenneth V. Thimann became the first to isolate one of these phytohormones and to determine its chemical structure as indole-3-acetic acid (IAA). Went and Thimann co-authored a book on plant hormones, Phytohormones, in 1937.

Plant physiology Subdiscipline of botany

Plant physiology is a subdiscipline of botany concerned with the functioning, or physiology, of plants. Closely related fields include plant morphology, plant ecology, phytochemistry, cell biology, genetics, biophysics and molecular biology.

Coleoptile Protective sheath in certain plants

Coleoptile is the pointed protective sheath covering the emerging shoot in monocotyledons such as grasses in which few leaf primordia and shoot apex of monocot embryo remain enclosed. The coleoptile protects the first leaf as well as the growing stem in seedlings and eventually, allows the first leaf to emerge. Coleoptiles have two vascular bundles, one on either side. Unlike the flag leaves rolled up within, the pre-emergent coleoptile does not accumulate significant protochlorophyll or carotenoids, and so it is generally very pale. Some preemergent coleoptiles do, however, accumulate purple anthocyanin pigments.


Thigmotropism is a directional growth movement which occurs as a mechanosensory response to a touch stimulus. Thigmotropism is typically found in twining plants and tendrils, however plant biologists have also found thigmotropic responses in flowering plants and fungi. This behavior occurs due to unilateral growth inhibition. That is, the growth rate on the side of the stem which is being touched is slower than on the side opposite the touch. The resultant growth pattern is to attach and sometimes curl around the object which is touching the plant. However, flowering plants have also been observed to move or grow their sex organs toward a pollinator that lands on the flower, as in Portulaca grandiflora.

Heliotropism Motion of flowers or leaves to face the Sun

Heliotropism, a form of tropism, is the diurnal or seasonal motion of plant parts in response to the direction of the Sun.


Hydrotropism is a plant's growth response in which the direction of growth is determined by a stimulus or gradient in water concentration. A common example is a plant root growing in humid air bending toward a higher relative humidity level.


Gravitropism is a coordinated process of differential growth by a plant in response to gravity pulling on it. It also occurs in fungi. Gravity can be either "artificial gravity" or natural gravity. It is a general feature of all higher and many lower plants as well as other organisms. Charles Darwin was one of the first to scientifically document that roots show positive gravitropism and stems show negative gravitropism. That is, roots grow in the direction of gravitational pull and stems grow in the opposite direction. This behavior can be easily demonstrated with any potted plant. When laid onto its side, the growing parts of the stem begin to display negative gravitropism, growing upwards. Herbaceous (non-woody) stems are capable of a degree of actual bending, but most of the redirected movement occurs as a consequence of root or stem growth outside. The mechanism is based on the Cholodny–Went model which was proposed in 1927, and has since been modified. Although the model has been criticized and continues to be refined, it has largely stood the test of time.

<i>The Power of Movement in Plants</i> Book about tropism published by Charles Darwin in 1880

The Power of Movement in Plants is a book by Charles Darwin on phototropism and other types of movement in plants. This book continues his work in producing evidence for his theory of natural selection. As it was one of his last books, followed only by the publication of The Formation of Vegetable Mould through the Action of Worms, he was assisted by his son Francis in conducting the necessary experiments and preparing the manuscript. The Power of Movement in Plants was published 6 November 1880, and 1500 copies were quickly sold by publisher John Murray.

Thermotropism or thermotropic movement is the movement of an organism or a part of an organism in response to heat or changes from the environment's temperature. A common example is the curling of Rhododendron leaves in response to cold temperatures. Mimosa pudica also show thermotropism by the collapsing of leaf petioles leading to the folding of leaflets, when temperature drops.

Chemotropism is defined as the growth of organisms navigated by chemical stimulus from outside of the organism. It has been observed in bacteria, plants and fungi. A chemical gradient can influence the growth of the organism in a positive or negative way. Positive growth is characterized by growing towards a stimulus and negative growth is growing away from the stimulus.

Nastic movements

Nastic movements are non-directional responses to stimuli, and are usually associated with plants. The movement can be due to changes in turgor or changes in growth. Decrease in turgor pressure causes shrinkage while increase in turgor pressure brings about swelling. Nastic movements differ from tropic movements in that the direction of tropic responses depends on the direction of the stimulus, whereas the direction of nastic movements is independent of the stimulus's position. The tropic movement is growth movement but nastic movement may or may not be growth movement. The rate or frequency of these responses increases as intensity of the stimulus increases. An example of such a response is the opening and closing of flowers, movement of euglena, chlamydomonas towards the source of light. They are named with the suffix "-nasty" and have prefixes that depend on the stimuli:

Polar auxin transport is the regulated transport of the plant hormone auxin in plants. It is an active process, the hormone is transported in cell-to-cell manner and one of the main features of the transport is its asymmetry and directionality (polarity). The polar auxin transport functions to coordinate plant development; the following spatial auxin distribution underpins most of plant growth responses to its environment and plant growth and developmental changes in general. In other words, the flow and relative concentrations of auxin informs each plant cell where it is located and therefore what it should do or become.

Gravitational biology is the study of the effects gravity has on living organisms. Throughout the history of the Earth life has evolved to survive changing conditions, such as changes in the climate and habitat. However, one constant factor in evolution since life first began on Earth is the force of gravity. As a consequence, all biological processes are accustomed to the ever-present force of gravity and even small variations in this force can have significant impact on the health and function and the system of organisms.

Plant perception (physiology)

Plant perception is the ability of plants to sense and respond to the environment by adjusting their morphology and physiology. Botanical research has revealed that plants are capable of reacting to a broad range of stimuli, including chemicals, gravity, light, moisture, infections, temperature, oxygen and carbon dioxide concentrations, parasite infestation, disease, physical disruption, sound, and touch. The scientific study of plant perception is informed by numerous disciplines, such as plant physiology, ecology, and molecular biology.

Gravitaxis is a form of taxis characterized by the directional movement of an organism in response to gravity. Gravitaxis is one of the many forms of taxis. It is characterized by the movement of an organism in response to gravitational forces. It is sometimes called geotaxis.

Phototropism Phototropism is the growth of an plant in response to a light stimulus

Phototropism is the growth of an organism in response to a light stimulus. Phototropism is most often observed in plants, but can also occur in other organisms such as fungi. The cells on the plant that are farthest from the light contain a hormone called auxin that reacts when phototropism occurs. This causes the plant to have elongated cells on the furthest side from the light. Phototropism is one of the many plant tropisms or movements which respond to external stimuli. Growth towards a light source is called positive phototropism, while growth away from light is called negative phototropism. Negative phototropism is not to be confused with skototropism which is defined as the growth towards darkness, whereas negative phototropism can refer to either the growth away from a light source or towards the darkness. Most plant shoots exhibit positive phototropism, and rearrange their chloroplasts in the leaves to maximize photosynthetic energy and promote growth. Some vine shoot tips exhibit negative phototropism, which allows them to grow towards dark, solid objects and climb them. The combination of phototropism and gravitropism allow plants to grow in the correct direction.

Electrotropism, also known as galvanotropism, is a kind of tropism which results in growth or migration of an organism, usually a cell, in response to an exogenous electric field. Several types of cells such as nerve cells, muscle cells, fibroblasts, epithelial cells, green algae, spores, and pollen tubes, among others, have been already reported to respond by either growing or migrating in a preferential direction when exposed to an electric field.

Cholodny–Went model Botany model

In botany, the Cholodny–Went model, proposed in 1927, is an early model describing tropism in emerging shoots of monocotyledons, including the tendencies for the shoot to grow towards the light (phototropism) and the roots to grow downward (gravitropism). In both cases the directional growth is considered to be due to asymmetrical distribution of auxin, a plant growth hormone. Although the model has been criticized and continues to be refined, it has largely stood the test of time.


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