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News

New piece found in the cell-shape puzzle

National Science Foundation : 11 March, 2005  (Company News)
The interlocked cells on the surface of a plant leaf form a pattern that looks like a finished jigsaw puzzle. But how the cells develop their wavy outlines has been a long-standing question for plant biologists. Now, in the March 11 issue of the journal Cell, scientists discover an important missing piece: the interplay of two opposing biochemical processes gives these cells their characteristic and essential shape.
The interlocked cells on the surface of a plant leaf form a pattern that looks like a finished jigsaw puzzle. But how the cells develop their wavy outlines has been a long-standing question for plant biologists. Now, in the March 11 issue of the journal Cell, scientists discover an important missing piece: the interplay of two opposing biochemical processes gives these cells their characteristic and essential shape.

The jigsaw-puzzle design of these cells is critical to help protect the underlying tissue from wind, rain and other stresses by providing physical strength. According to Zhenbiao Yang and colleagues at the University of California, Riverside, and Geoffrey Wasteneys at the University of British Columbia, cells adopt their final shapes by communicating with one another while undergoing a repetitive process of growth activation and inhibition. The end result is a network of cells with intertwined 'lobes' and 'necks.'

'Knowing the mechanism by which these cells develop, could lead to a better understanding of how growth is coordinated in any developing tissue or organ,' said Yang. Similar elements of these cellular processes are known to exist in a variety of organisms including mammals; therefore, further investigation may provide a unifying mechanism for cellular specialization and growth across plant and animal kingdoms.

Susan Lolle, the National Science Foundation program manager who oversees Yang's work said, 'Surprisingly, we still know little about how an organism shapes and arranges its cells to form functioning tissue. It's this growth process that contributes to the final anatomy of plant parts; hence, in the end we see that petals, stems, and leaves look dramatically different. These results help us understand how cells achieve their final shapes.'
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