A Multiscale Approach to Genes, Growth and Geometry

Lead Research Organisation: John Innes Centre
Department Name: Contracts Office


To understand the dynamics and genetic control underlying shape, we will use a combination experimental analysis, image-processing, computer modelling to study and integrate leaf growth at multiple scales. (1) At the subcellular level, the dynamics of microtubule synthesis in growing leaf cells at various stages and locations will be tracked in 3D. The observed behaviour will be modelled and tested through analysis of mutants or plants treated with cytoskeletal inhibitors. (2) At the cellular level, the pattern of cell growth and division will be determined for multiple regions of a growing leaf by live 3D imaging. Suitable computer languages will be developed for modelling this behaviour based on local interactions between multiple units growing in parallel. The models will be tested by analysing the effects of modifying gene activity at particular places and times on leaf growth. (3) At the organ level, leaf growth in 3D will be tracked using Optical Projection Tomography, Confocal microscopy and fluorescent marking. A modelling framework will be developed that allows the observed cellular and tissue properties to be integrated with the action of genes. Models will be tested by experimental perturbation of local gene activity. This will be aided by developing a system for quantifying the 3D shapes of a diverse collection of mutants that affect leaf shape and size at various stages of development. (4) At the whole plant level, leaf growth will be incorporated into a virtual plant in which local interactions between modules account for the dynamics of growth and architecture. By interfacing the models at different scales, an integrated view of plant development should emerge. The project will also train a new cohort of interdisciplinary scientists familiar with concepts and methods that range from molecular genetics, developmental biology, bio-imaging, image-processing to computer modelling.


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