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Dormancy is a period in an organism's life cycle when growth, development, and (in animals) physical activity are temporarily stopped. This minimizes metabolic activity and therefore helps an organism to conserve energy. Dormancy tends to be closely associated with environmental conditions. Organisms can synchronize entry to a dormant phase with their environment through predictive or consequential means. Predictive dormancy occurs when an organism enters a dormant phase before the onset of adverse conditions. For example, photoperiod and decreasing temperature are used by many plants to predict the onset of winter. Consequential dormancy occurs when organisms enter a dormant phase after adverse conditions have arisen. This is commonly found in areas with an unpredictable climate. While very sudden changes in conditions may lead to a high mortality rate among animals relying on consequential dormancy, its use can be advantageous, as organisms remain active longer and are therefore able to make greater use of available resources.



Aestivation, also spelled estivation, is an example of consequential dormancy in response to very hot or dry conditions. It is common in invertebrates such as the garden snail and worm but also occurs in other animals such as lungfish, salamanders, desert tortoises, and crocodiles.

In plant physiology, dormancy is a period of arrested plant growth. It is a survival strategy exhibited by many plant species, which enables them to survive in climates where part of the year is unsuitable for growth, such as winter or dry seasons.

Many plant species that exhibit dormancy have a biological clock that tells them when to slow activity and to prepare soft tissues for a period of freezing temperatures or water shortage. On the other hand, dormancy can be triggered after a normal growing season by decreasing temperatures, shortened day length, and/or a reduction in rainfall. Chemical treatment on dormant plants has been proven to be an effective method to break dormancy, particularly in woody plants such as grapes, berries, apples, peaches, and kiwis. Specifically, hydrogen cyanamide stimulates cell division and growth in dormant plants, causing buds to break when the plant is on the edge of breaking dormancy.[citation needed] Slight injury of cells may play a role in the mechanism of action. The injury is thought to result in increased permeability of cellular membranes.[citation needed] The injury is associated with the inhibition of catalase, which in turn stimulates the pentose phosphate cycle. Hydrogen cyanamide interacts with the cytokinin metabolic cycle, which results in triggering a new growth cycle.[citation needed] The images below show two particularly widespread dormancy patterns amongst sympodially growing orchids:

When a mature and viable seed under a favorable condition fails to germinate, it is said to be dormant. Seed dormancy is referred to as embryo dormancy or internal dormancy and is caused by endogenous characteristics of the embryo that prevent germination (Black M, Butler J, Hughes M. 1987). Dormancy should not be confused with seed coat dormancy, external dormancy, or hardheadedness, which is caused by the presence of a hard seed covering or seed coat that prevents water and oxygen from reaching and activating the embryo. It is a physical barrier to germination, not a true form of dormancy (Quinliven, 1971; Quinliven and Nichol, 1971).

Seed dormancy is desired in nature, but the opposite in the agriculture field. This is because agricultural practice desires rapid germination and growth for food whereas in nature, most plants are only capable of germinating once every year, making it favorable for plants to pick a specific time to reproduce. For many plants, it is preferable to reproduce in spring as opposed to fall even when there are similar conditions in terms of light and temperature due to the ensuing winter that follows fall. Many plants and seeds recognize this and enter a dormant period in the fall to stop growing. The grain is a popular example in this aspect, where they would die above ground during the winter, so dormancy is favorable to its seedlings but extensive domestication and crossbreeding has removed most dormancy mechanisms that their ancestors had.[6]

While seed dormancy is linked to many genes, abscisic acid (ABA), a plant hormone, has been linked as a major influencer to seed dormancy. In a study on rice and tobacco plants, plants defective in zeaxanthin epoxidase gene, which are linked to ABA-synthesis pathway. Seeds with higher ABA content, from over-expressing zeaxanthin epoxidase, led to an increased dormancy period while plants with lower numbers of zeaxanthin epoxidase were shown to have a shorter period of dormancy. A simple diagram can be drawn of ABA inhibits seed germination, while gibberellin (GA, also plant hormone) inhibits ABA production and promotes seed germination.[6][7]

Typically, temperate woody perennial plants require chilling temperatures to overcome winter dormancy (rest). The effect of chilling temperatures depends on species and growth stage (Fuchigami et al. 1987).[8] In some species, rest can be broken within hours at any stage of dormancy, with either chemicals, heat, or freezing temperatures, effective dosages of which would seem to be a function of sublethal stress, which results in stimulation of ethylene production and increased cell membrane permeability.

Dormancy is a general term applicable to any instance in which a tissue predisposed to elongate or grow in some other manner does not do so (Nienstaedt 1966).[9] Quiescence is dormancy imposed by the external environment. Correlated inhibition is a kind of physiological dormancy maintained by agents or conditions originating within the plant, but not within the dormant tissue itself. Rest (winter dormancy) is a kind of physiological dormancy maintained by agents or conditions within the organ itself. However, physiological subdivisions of dormancy do not coincide with the morphological dormancy found in white spruce (Picea glauca) and other conifers (Owens et al. 1977).[10] Physiological dormancy often includes early stages of bud-scale initiation before measurable shoot elongation or before flushing. It may also include late leaf initiation after shoot elongation has been completed. In either of those cases, buds that appear to be dormant are nevertheless very active morphologically and physiologically.

Tree species that have well-developed dormancy needs may be tricked to some degree, but not completely. For instance, if a Japanese maple (Acer palmatum) is given an "eternal summer" through exposure to additional daylight, it grows continuously for as long as two years. Eventually, however, a temperate-climate plant automatically goes dormant, no matter what environmental conditions it experiences. Deciduous plants lose their leaves; evergreens curtail all new growth. Going through an "eternal summer" and the resultant automatic dormancy is stressful to the plant and usually fatal. The fatality rate increases to 100% if the plant does not receive the necessary period of cold temperatures required to break the dormancy. Most plants require a certain number of hours of "chilling" at temperatures between about 0 C and 10 C to be able to break dormancy (Bewley, Black, K.D 1994).

Short photoperiods induce dormancy and permit the formation of needle primordia. Primordia formation requires 8 to 10 weeks and must be followed by 6 weeks of chilling at 2 C. Bud break occurs promptly if seedlings are then exposed to 16-hour photoperiods at the 25 C/20 C temperature regime. The free growth mode, a juvenile characteristic that is lost after 5 years or so, ceases in seedlings experiencing environmental stress (Logan and Pollard 1976, Logan 1977).[13][14]

Recent research[19] has characterized the bacterial cytoplasm as a glass forming fluid approaching the liquid-glass transition, such that large cytoplasmic components require the aid of metabolic activity to fluidize the surrounding cytoplasm, allowing them to move through a viscous, glass-like cytoplasm. During dormancy, when such metabolic activities are put on hold, the cytoplasm behaves like a solid glass, 'freezing' subcellular structures in place and perhaps protecting them, while allowing small molecules like metabolites to move freely through the cell, which may be helpful in cells transitioning out of dormancy.[19]

An estimated two billion persons are latently infected with Mycobacterium tuberculosis. The host factors that initiate and maintain this latent state and the mechanisms by which M. tuberculosis survives within latent lesions are compelling but unanswered questions. One such host factor may be nitric oxide (NO), a product of activated macrophages that exhibits antimycobacterial properties. Evidence for the possible significance of NO comes from murine models of tuberculosis showing progressive infection in animals unable to produce the inducible isoform of NO synthase and in animals treated with a NO synthase inhibitor. Here, we show that O2 and low, nontoxic concentrations of NO competitively modulate the expression of a 48-gene regulon, which is expressed in vivo and prepares bacilli for survival during long periods of in vitro dormancy. NO was found to reversibly inhibit aerobic respiration and growth. A heme-containing enzyme, possibly the terminal oxidase in the respiratory pathway, likely senses and integrates NO and O2 levels and signals the regulon. These data lead to a model postulating that, within granulomas, inhibition of respiration by NO production and O2 limitation constrains M. tuberculosis replication rates in persons with latent tuberculosis.

As the plant enters endo-dormancy, it tracks chilling units to track the passage of the winter. Chilling units are hours of time spent above freezing. The number of hours required for chilling varies for different plants from less than 500 to 1,500 hours or more. Many people think the plant is tracking hours below freezing. It is not. Hours below freezing have no effect on chilling, but will increase cold hardiness. If warm weather occurs before the plant completes its chilling requirement, no growth occurs. Chilling and endo-dormancy normally prevent plants from beginning growth during warm spells in the middle of the winter. Not all hours above freezing are equal. Temperatures between 40 and 50 degrees Fahrenheit (5 to 10 degrees Celsius) are most effective. Temperatures just above freezing and above 50 F are less effective and temperatures above 60 F often have a negative effect on chilling. 041b061a72


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