Mechanical & Materials Engineering, Department of


Document Type


Date of this Version



PNAS Nexus, 2023, 2, 1–10.


Open access.


Stomatal function in plants is regulated by the nanoscale architecture of the cell wall and turgor pressure, which together control stomatal pore size to facilitate gas exchange and photosynthesis. The mechanical properties of the cell wall and cell geometry are critical determinants of stomatal dynamics. However, the specific biomechanical functions of wall constituents, for example, cellulose and pectins, and their impact on the work required to open or close the stomatal pore are unclear. Here, we use nanoindentation in normal and lateral directions, computational modeling, and microscopic imaging of cells from the model plant Arabidopsis thaliana to investigate the precise influences of wall architecture and turgor pressure on stomatal biomechanics. This approach allows us to quantify and compare the unique anisotropic properties of guard cells with normal composition, lower cellulose content, or alterations in pectin molecular weight. Using these data to calculate the work required to open the stomata reveals that the wild type, with a circumferential-to-longitudinal modulus ratio of 3:1, is the most energy-efficient of those studied. In addition, the tested genotypes displayed similar changes in their pore size despite large differences in wall thickness and biomechanical properties. These findings imply that homeostasis in stomatal function is maintained in the face of varying wall compositions and biomechanics by tuning wall thickness.