Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Researchers offer clues to how leaf patterns are formed

Pick up a leaf and it is hard not to notice the pattern made by the veins. For years, biologists, mathematicians and even poets and philosophers have tried to decipher the rules and regulations behind those varied designs and now new research published in part at the University of Alberta offers a big clue to how those patterns are formed.

"For years people have been trying to understand this beautiful formation," said Dr. Enrico Scarpella, from the U of A's Department of Biological Sciences. "We were able to connect the mechanism responsible for the initiation of the veins in the leaf with that of formation of the shoot and root. With our piece of the puzzle added, it indeed seems the same mechanism is responsible for all these events."

What Scarpella and his research team--Dr. Thomas Berleth's group from the University of Toronto and Dr. Jiri Friml from the University of Tuebingen--discovered has interested scientists around the world. For several years it has been known that a hormone called auxin stimulated the formation of the veins. "It was believed that auxin would behave like man--build the streets on which man himself would travel," said Scarpella. "However, the theory argued that in each individual vein auxin could only run one way at any given time, making them sort of alternate one-way streets."

By labeling the protein that transports the hormone auxin with a fluorescent tag, he could then shine a light on the leaves and watch how auxin was being transported during vein formation. Thanks to this approach, the team identified cells within individual veins that transport the hormone auxin in two opposite directions. He also showed for the first time that the epidermis of the leaf is very important in the transport of this hormone and in the formation of the veins.

One of the objections to the idea that veins might act as a channel to transport auxin was that there were mutant leaves that produced dotted, rather than continuous veins for auxin to run through. But the research team showed that the leaves with the dotted veins were a mature version and that at an earlier stage, the veins were continuous and did act as transporters. "We didn't have the technology to see those early stages before and now we do," he said. "We now know that the veins are the backbone of the leaf and are somehow responsible for the final shape of the plant."

But one of the biggest discoveries, perhaps the one with the most evolutionary implications, is that plants use the same mechanism to regulate vein formation in the leaf and branch formation on the main trunk and on the main root. The finding that the leaf is like a two-dimensional model of a tree may change the way plant scientists work, says Scarpella. "If each leaf can make more than 100 veins, you can see the process over and over compared to the formation of branches in a big, three-dimensional slowly growing tree or the difficulties in studying root branching in their natural environment, which is the dirt," he said. "Our findings will contribute to the way we will manipulate plant development to our advantage. Once we know all the players in the game we will be able to say, we want more leaves on this, more branches on this one or fewer flowers on this plant."

Phoebe Dey | EurekAlert!
Further information:

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Novel mechanisms of action discovered for the skin cancer medication Imiquimod
21.10.2016 | Technische Universität München

nachricht Second research flight into zero gravity
21.10.2016 | Universität Zürich

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

Im Focus: Diamonds aren't forever: Sandia, Harvard team create first quantum computer bridge

By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.

"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...

Im Focus: New Products - Highlights of COMPAMED 2016

COMPAMED has become the leading international marketplace for suppliers of medical manufacturing. The trade fair, which takes place every November and is co-located to MEDICA in Dusseldorf, has been steadily growing over the past years and shows that medical technology remains a rapidly growing market.

In 2016, the joint pavilion by the IVAM Microtechnology Network, the Product Market “High-tech for Medical Devices”, will be located in Hall 8a again and will...

Im Focus: Ultra-thin ferroelectric material for next-generation electronics

'Ferroelectric' materials can switch between different states of electrical polarization in response to an external electric field. This flexibility means they show promise for many applications, for example in electronic devices and computer memory. Current ferroelectric materials are highly valued for their thermal and chemical stability and rapid electro-mechanical responses, but creating a material that is scalable down to the tiny sizes needed for technologies like silicon-based semiconductors (Si-based CMOS) has proven challenging.

Now, Hiroshi Funakubo and co-workers at the Tokyo Institute of Technology, in collaboration with researchers across Japan, have conducted experiments to...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

Resolving the mystery of preeclampsia

21.10.2016 | Health and Medicine

Stanford researchers create new special-purpose computer that may someday save us billions

21.10.2016 | Information Technology

From ancient fossils to future cars

21.10.2016 | Materials Sciences

More VideoLinks >>>