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    The structure of pollen grains, which is typically characterized by soft apertures in an otherwise stiff exine shell, guides their response to changes in the humidity of the environment. These changes can lead to desiccation of the grain and its infolding but also to excessive swelling of the grain and even its bursting. Here we use an elastic model to explore the mechanics of pollen grain swelling and the role of soft, circular apertures (pores) in this process. Small, circular apertures typically occur in airborne and allergenic pollen grains so that the bursting of such grains is important in the context of human health. We identify and quantify a mechanical weakness of the pores, which are prone to rapid inflation when the grain swells to a critical extent. The inflation occurs as a sudden transition and may induce bursting of the grain and release of its content. This process crucially depends on the size of the pores and their softness. Our results provide insight into the inactive part of the mechanical response of pollen grains to hydration when they land on a stigma as well as bursting of airborne pollen grains during changes in air humidity. Copyright © 2022 Biophysical Society. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


    Anže Božič, Antonio Šiber. Mechanics of inactive swelling and bursting of porate pollen grains. Biophysical journal. 2022 Mar 01;121(5):782-792

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    PMID: 35093340

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