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Jigsaw Puzzle Plant Cells Explained


Researchers Unlock Mechanism Creating Jigsaw Puzzle-Like Plant Cells

Chemical pathways allow plant cells to develop in interlocking patterns, adding strength to leaves

(March 10, 2005)

Arabidopsis leaf microtubules

Arabidopsis leaf microtubules

RIVERSIDE, Calif. — www.ucr.edu — Researchers at the University of California, Riverside have unlocked the molecular give and take that allows cells in thin structures such as leaves to develop in a jigsaw-like pattern, providing the leaf a surprising degree of strength. The findings were published in today’s edition of the journal Cell.

Zhenbiao Yang, a professor of plant cell biology at the UCR’s Center for Plant Cell Biology and Institute for Integrative Genome Biology, worked with a team of researchers which included Geoffrey Wasteneys from the University of British Columbia, Vancouver; fellow UCR colleagues Ying Fu, Ying Gu, and Zhiliang Zheng.

The findings, described in a paper titled “Arabidipsis Interdigitating Cell Growth Requires Two Antagonistic Pathways with Opposing Action on Cell Morphogenesis,” explained a complicated and coordinated series of chemical interactions in a group of cellular proteins, known as GTPases (guanosine triphosphatases) that act as molecular switches, which regulate how plant cells grow into interlocking patterns resembling jigsaw puzzle pieces.

These proteins tell one part of a cell to grow outward while telling its neighbor to recede or indent itself in a finely tuned biological dance. The results are structures that, despite their delicate appearance and slenderness, provide the strength necessary to allow the plant to grow and thrive.

The findings point out that these distinct signals play a critical role in the development of leaf cell walls and leaf structures in a controlled and ordered way and that genetically over expressing one or the other leads to cells lacking the interlocking jigsaw puzzle appearance.

While the researchers unlocked a fascinating mechanism of biochemical crosstalk that coordinates cells into tissues, a deeper understanding of how plant cells chemically talk to each other to grow or recede in an ordered way remains unclear.

The University of California, Riverside (www.ucr.edu) is a doctoral research university, a living laboratory for groundbreaking exploration of issues critical to Inland Southern California, the state and communities around the world. Reflecting California's diverse culture, UCR's enrollment has exceeded 21,000 students. The campus opened a medical school in 2013 and has reached the heart of the Coachella Valley by way of the UCR Palm Desert Center. The campus has an annual statewide economic impact of more than $1 billion.

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