An interdisciplinary approach to understanding leaf development and diversity

Supervision: The project will be supervised by Miltos Tsiantis at the Max Planck Institute for Plant Breeding Research.

Abstract: A key challenge in biology is to understand how diversity in organismal form is generated. We developed Cardamine hirsuta - a relative of the model plant Arabidopsis thaliana - into a versatile system for studying morphological evolution. Here, we aim to understand and model the morphogenetic paths leading to the strikingly different geometries of the two species: simple leaves in A. thaliana and dissected leaves with leaflets in C. hirsuta, and wish to extend these findings to other cruciferous plants with morphologies intermediate between these two taxa. To achieve this, we will use a combination of genetics, advanced imaging and computational modeling. Further, we will investigate to what degree principles we derive from studying the divergent leaf forms of A. thaliana and C. hirsuta are sufficient to explain the large variety of leaf shapes seen in seed plants. The project will be instrumental in producing predictive models of a leaf shape, a trait that evolves in close correspondence with the environment, suggesting it may be of adaptive significance.

Key publication: Kierzkowski, D., Runions, A., Vuolo, F., Strauss, S., Lymbouridou, R., Routier-Kierzkowska, A. L., ... & Tsiantis, M. (2019). A growth-based framework for leaf shape development and diversity. Cell177(6), 1405-1418.

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