Plants have specialized genes that they can turn on when they want to start to grow. The places where these genes are turned on however do not always match with where growth is observed, suggesting additional factors regulate plant growth.
The cells that make up plants come in a wide range of shapes and sizes, which are related to their specialized functions. Recent experiments by Dr George Bassel together with collaborators in Cologne Germany have demonstrated that the shape of plant cells can also predispose their ability to expand in response to growth-promoting gene expression.
Using a combination of quantitative microscopy and mechanical modelling, observed patterns of plant cellular growth were computationally reconstructed in 3D. A role for cell size, shape and arrangement on the ability of cells to grow in response to growth promoting genes was demonstrated using these computational models, and was capable of predicting why observed cell growth did not match where growth-promoting gene expression was present.
These results show that plants can use different shaped cells and cell arrangements to predispose their future development independently from genetically encoded programs. The simulations in this study as well represent the first full 3D simulations of plant growth and a big step towards the development of a virtual plant.
Read Dr Bassel's paper about this research here