Virtual profiling: a new way to analyse phenotypes

Plant J. 2010 Apr;62(2):344-55. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-313X.2010.04152.x. Epub 2010 Jan 25.


Simulation models can be used to perform virtual profiling in order to analyse eco-physiological processes controlling plant phenotype. To illustrate this, an eco-physiological model has been used to compare and contrast the status of a virtual fruit system under two situations of carbon supply. The model simulates fruit growth, accumulation of sugar, citric acid and water, transpiration, respiration and ethylene emission, and was successfully tested on peach (Prunus persica L. Batsch) for two leaf-to-fruit ratios (6 and 18 leaves per fruit). The development stage and the variation in leaf number had large effects of the fruit model variables dealing with growth, metabolism and fruit quality. A sensitivity analysis showed that changing a single parameter value, which could correspond to a genotypic change induced by a mutation, either strongly affects most of the processes, or affects a specific process or none. Correlation analysis showed that, in a complex system such as fruit, the intensity of many physiological processes and quality traits co-varies. It also showed unexpected co-variations resulting from emergent properties of the system. This virtual profiling approach opens a new route to explore the impact of mutations, or naturally occurring genetic variations, under differing environmental conditions.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Carbohydrate Metabolism
  • Citric Acid / metabolism
  • Computer Simulation*
  • Ethylenes / metabolism
  • Fruit / physiology*
  • Models, Biological*
  • Phenotype*
  • Plant Leaves / metabolism
  • Plant Transpiration
  • Principal Component Analysis
  • Prunus / physiology*
  • Water / metabolism


  • Ethylenes
  • Water
  • Citric Acid
  • ethylene