[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: As a model system to study physical interactions in multicellular systems, we used layers of Escherichia coli cells, which exhibit little or no intrinsic coordination of growth. This system effectively isolates the effects of cell shape, growth, and division on spatial self-organization. Tracking the development of fluorescence- labeled cellular domains, we observed the emergence of striking fractal patterns with jagged, self-similar shapes. We then used a large-scale, cellular biophysical model to show that local instabilities due to polar cell-shape, repeatedly propagated by uniaxial growth and division, are responsible for generating this fractal geometry. Confirming this result, a mutant of E. coli with spherical shape forms smooth, non-fractal cellular domains. These results demonstrate that even populations of relatively simple bacterial cells can possess emergent properties due to purely physical interactions. Therefore accurate physico-genetic models of cell growth will be essential for the design and understanding of genetically programmed multicellular systems.
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: In an age of pressing challenges for sustainable production of energy and food, the new field of Synthetic Biology has emerged as a promising approach to engineer biological systems. Synthetic Biology is formulating the design principles to engineer affordable, scalable, predictable and robust functions in biological systems. In addition to efficient transfer of evolved traits from one organism to another, Synthetic Biology offers a new and radical approach to bottom-up engineering of sensors, actuators, dynamical controllers and the biological chassis they are embedded in. Because it abstracts much of the mechanistic details underlying biological component behavior, Synthetic Biology methods and resources can be readily used by interdisciplinary teams to tackle complex problems. In addition, the advent of robust new methods for the assembly of large genetic circuits enables teaching Biology and Bioengineering in a learning-by-making fashion for diverse backgrounds at the graduate, undergraduate and high school levels. Synthetic Biology offers unique opportunities to empower interdisciplinary training, research and industrial development in Chile for a technology that promises a significant role in this century's economy.
Biological research 01/2013; 46(4):383-93. · 1.13 Impact Factor
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: We present the coupled use of specifically localized fluorescent gene markers and image processing for automated quantitative analysis of cell growth and genetic activity across living plant tissues. We used fluorescent protein markers to identify cells, create seeds and boundaries for the automatic segmentation of cell geometries and ratiometrically measure gene expression cell by cell in Arabidopsis thaliana.
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Boron is an essential micronutrient for plants and is taken up in the form of boric acid (BA). Despite this, a high BA concentration is toxic for the plants, inhibiting root growth and is thus a significant problem in semi-arid areas in the world. In this work, we report the molecular basis for the inhibition of root growth caused by boron. We show that application of BA reduces the size of root meristems, correlating with the inhibition of root growth. The decrease in meristem size is caused by a reduction of cell division. Mitotic cell number significantly decreases and the expression level of key core cell cycle regulators is modulated. The modulation of the cell cycle does not appear to act through cytokinin and auxin signalling. A global expression analysis reveals that boron toxicity induces the expression of genes related with abscisic acid (ABA) signalling, ABA response and cell wall modifications, and represses genes that code for water transporters. These results suggest that boron toxicity produces a reduction of water and BA uptake, triggering a hydric stress response that produces root growth inhibition.
Plant Cell and Environment 04/2012; 35(4):719-34. · 5.14 Impact Factor
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Most plant growth occurs post-embryonically and is characterized by the constant and iterative formation of new organs. Non-invasive time-resolved imaging of intact, fully functional organisms allows studies of the dynamics involved in shaping complex organisms. Conventional and confocal fluorescence microscopy suffer from limitations when whole living organisms are imaged at single-cell resolution. We applied light sheet-based fluorescence microscopy to overcome these limitations and study the dynamics of plant growth. We designed a special imaging chamber in which the plant is maintained vertically under controlled illumination with its leaves in the air and its root in the medium. We show that minimally invasive, multi-color, three-dimensional imaging of live Arabidopsis thaliana samples can be achieved at organ, cellular and subcellular scales over periods of time ranging from seconds to days with minimal damage to the sample. We illustrate the capabilities of the method by recording the growth of primary root tips and lateral root primordia over several hours. This allowed us to quantify the contribution of cell elongation to the early morphogenesis of lateral root primordia and uncover the diurnal growth rhythm of lateral roots. We demonstrate the applicability of our approach at varying spatial and temporal scales by following the division of plant cells as well as the movement of single endosomes in live growing root samples. This multi-dimensional approach will have an important impact on plant developmental and cell biology and paves the way to a truly quantitative description of growth processes at several scales.
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Plant growth is driven by cell proliferation and elongation. The hormone gibberellin (GA) regulates Arabidopsis root growth by controlling cell elongation, but it is currently unknown whether GA also controls root cell proliferation. Here we show that GA biosynthetic mutants are unable to increase their cell production rate and meristem size after germination. GA signals the degradation of the DELLA growth repressor proteins GAI and RGA, promoting root cell production. Targeting the expression of gai (a non-GA-degradable mutant form of GAI) in the root meristem disrupts cell proliferation. Moreover, expressing gai in dividing endodermal cells was sufficient to block root meristem enlargement. We report a novel function for GA regulating cell proliferation where this signal acts by removing DELLA in a subset of, rather than all, meristem cells. We suggest that the GA-regulated rate of expansion of dividing endodermal cells dictates the equivalent rate in other root tissues. Cells must double in size prior to dividing but cannot do so independently, because they are physically restrained by adjacent tissues with which they share cell walls. Our study highlights the importance of probing regulatory mechanisms linking molecular- and cellular-scale processes with tissue and organ growth responses.
Current biology: CB 08/2009; 19(14):1194-9. · 10.99 Impact Factor
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The B class of MADS-box floral homeotic genes specifies petal and stamen identity in angiosperms. While this group is one of the most studied in herbaceous plant species, it has remained largely uncharacterized in woody species such as grapevine. Although the B class PI/GLO and AP3/DEF clades have been extensively characterized in model species, the role of the TM6 subgroup within the AP3 clade is not completely understood, since it is absent in Arabidopsis thaliana. In this study, the coding regions of VvTM6 and VvAP3 and the genomic sequence of VvPI, were cloned. VvPI and AtPI were confirmed to be functional homologues by means of complementation of the pi Arabidopsis mutant. Expression analysis revealed that VvPI and VvAP3 transcripts are restricted almost exclusively to inflorescences, although VvPI was detected at low levels in leaves and roots. VvTM6 expresses throughout the plant, with higher levels in flowers and berries. A detailed chronological study of grape flower progression by light microscopy and temporal expression analysis throughout early and late developmental stages, revealed that VvPI expression increases during pollen maturation and decreases between the events of pollination and fertilization, before the cap fall. On the other hand, VvTM6 is expressed in the last stage of anther development. Specific expression of VvAP3 and VvPI was detected in petals and stamens within the flower, while VvTM6 was also expressed in carpels. Moreover, this work provides the first evidence for expression of a TM6-like gene throughout fruit growth and ripening. Even if these genes belong to the same genetic class they could act in different periods and/or tissues during reproductive organ development.