J Integr Plant Biol. ›› 2015, Vol. 57 ›› Issue (1): 14-22.DOI: 10.1111/jipb.12317

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Explaining the “Pulse of Protoplasm”: The search for molecular mechanisms of protoplasmic streaming

Michael R. Dietrich*   

  1. Department of Biological Sciences, Dartmouth College, Hanover, New Hampshire, USA


Explanations for protoplasmic streaming began with appeals to contraction in the eighteenth century and ended with appeals to contraction in the twentieth. During the intervening years, biologists proposed a diverse array of mechanisms for streaming motions. This paper focuses on the re-emergence of contraction among the molecular mechanisms proposed for protoplasmic streaming during the twentieth century. The revival of contraction is a result of a broader transition from colloidal chemistry to a macromolecular approach to the chemistry of proteins, the recognition of the phenomena of shuttle streaming and the pulse of protoplasm, and the influential analogy between protoplasmic streaming and muscle contraction.


Dietrich MR (2015) Explaining the“Pulse of Protoplasm”: The search for molecular mechanisms of protoplasmic streaming. J Integr Plant Biol 57: 14–22 doi: 10.1111/jipb.12317

Key words: Actin, cytoplasmic streaming, history of cell biology, protoplasm

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