Generation of Leaf Shape Through Early Patterns of Growth and Tissue Polarity

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Science  02 Mar 2012:
Vol. 335, Issue 6072, pp. 1092-1096
DOI: 10.1126/science.1214678

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Shape-Shifting Signals

Although orthogonal signaling systems seem to direct various developmental processes, few tissues remain in the same shape as they are at initiation to that of the final form. Arabidopsis leaves are free of the cell migrations that complicate animal development, and thus allowed Kuchen et al. (p. 1092) to track and model the trajectory of leaf growth under a variety of perturbations. Varying the values of parameters in their model produced outputs of different leaf shapes ranging from obcordate, ovate, and oval to elliptic, and offered predictions for genes that regulate the developmental process. The meristem at the growing tip of plants is home to stem cells and is the source of newly differentiating shoots and leaves. New leaves make their first appearance as bulges at the side of the dome-shaped meristem. Although these developmental events are under hormonal control, they also seem to be constrained by the physical properties of the meristem. Kierzkowski et al. (p. 1096) tested physical effects acting on the shoot apical meristem of growing tomato shoots that alter turgor pressure. Again, mathematical modeling combined with observations of plant tissue helped to define the different zones in the meristem that respond to diverse mechanical stimuli.