Tuning plant growth mechanics


The size and shape of plant organs, such as fruits and stems, are important traits that have been strongly selected during crop domestication and improvement. However, our knowledge of how genes control plant shape is very limited. Filling this gap will be important to take advantage of new technologies for crop improvement or for rapid re-domestication of new species.

In this project, we aim to understand the mechanism of action of one of the major types of genes that have caused changes in plant organ shape during domestication and crop improvement, taking advantage of unique Arabidopsis experimental resources combined with advanced image analysis and computational modelling of tissue growth. This interdisciplinary project will be supported by two labs with complementary expertise: developmental genetics and imaging (Sablowski lab), together with advanced image analysis, experimental biophysics and computational modelling (Smith lab).

The work will reveal fundamental processes in the control of plant organ growth, leading to high-quality publications, while at the same time addressing an important gap in our ability to predictably modify plant organ shape for practical use.


P. B. de Reuille et al., MorphoGraphX: A platform for quantifying morphogenesis in 4D. Elife 4, e05864 (2015).

S. Bencivenga, A. Serrano-Mislata, M. Bush, S. Fox, R. Sablowski, Control of Oriented Tissue Growth through Repression of Organ Boundary Genes Promotes Stem Morphogenesis. Dev. Cell 39, 198-208 (2016).

G. Mosca, A. Sapala, S. Strauss, A.-L. Routier-Kierzkowska, R. S. Smith, On the micro-indentation of plant cells in a tissue context. Physical Biology 14, 015003 (2017).