It is a wondrous thing that leaf shape can be so consistent, and yet so plastic.
In the Coen lab they are working to understand how the form of a planar leaf is determined. Working in the model plant Arabidopsis, they use a number of approaches to model and map growth.
Rebecca’s current work involves transforming plants with synthetic genes predicted to be involved in these developmental processes. These synthetic gene constructs are fused to fluorescent proteins, so that they can visually follow the expression of genes in the plant.
Using a confocal microscope the Coen lab can track where the genes are expressed in the tissue and at which developmental stage. They can also study the effect of ‘turning off’ these genes, or of causing them to be ‘turned-on’ outside their normal area or time of expression. These tools are giving us tantalising clues as to how a leaf grows from a few cells into a predictable final form.
Horn R., Wingen L. U., Snape J. W., Dolan L.Mapping of quantitative trait loci for root hair length in wheat identifies loci that co-locate with loci for yield components.Journal of Experimental Botany (67)Publisher's version: 10.1093/jxb/erw228