The chemical kinetics of shape determination in plants
Holloway, David (David Holloway (David_Holloway)) (author)
Patel, Vivek (editor)
© The Author(s).
Plants are integral to our lives, providing food, shelter and the air we breathe. The shapes that plants take are central to their functionality, tailoring each for its particular place in the ecosystem. Given the relatively large and static forms of plants, it may not be immediately apparent that chemical kinetics is involved in, for example, distinguishing the form of a spruce tree from that of a fern. But plants share the common feature that their shapes are continuously being generated, and this largely occurs in localized regions of cell division and expansion, such as the shoot and root apical meristems at either end of a plant’s main axis; these regions remain essentially embryonic throughout the life cycle. The final regular structure of a plant, such as the arrangement of leaves along the main stalk, may seem to follow an overall spatial template; but in reality the spatial patterning is occurring at relatively short range, and it is the temporal unfolding of this small scale patterning which generates the plant’s form. A key part of understanding plant morphogenesis, or shape generation, therefore, is to understand how the molecular determinants of cell type, cell division and cell expansion are localized to and patterned within the actively growing regions. At this scale, transport processes such as diffusion and convection are obvious components of localization, for moving molecules to the correct places; but the reaction kinetics for molecular creation, destruction and interaction are also critical to maintaining the molecular identity and the size regulation of the active regions.