Native environment modulates leaf size and response to simulated foliar shade across wild tomato species

PLoS One. 2012;7(1):e29570. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0029570. Epub 2012 Jan 12.


The laminae of leaves optimize photosynthetic rates by serving as a platform for both light capture and gas exchange, while minimizing water losses associated with thermoregulation and transpiration. Many have speculated that plants maximize photosynthetic output and minimize associated costs through leaf size, complexity, and shape, but a unifying theory linking the plethora of observed leaf forms with the environment remains elusive. Additionally, the leaf itself is a plastic structure, responsive to its surroundings, further complicating the relationship. Despite extensive knowledge of the genetic mechanisms underlying angiosperm leaf development, little is known about how phenotypic plasticity and selective pressures converge to create the diversity of leaf shapes and sizes across lineages. Here, we use wild tomato accessions, collected from locales with diverse levels of foliar shade, temperature, and precipitation, as a model to assay the extent of shade avoidance in leaf traits and the degree to which these leaf traits correlate with environmental factors. We find that leaf size is correlated with measures of foliar shade across the wild tomato species sampled and that leaf size and serration correlate in a species-dependent fashion with temperature and precipitation. We use far-red induced changes in leaf length as a proxy measure of the shade avoidance response, and find that shade avoidance in leaves negatively correlates with the level of foliar shade recorded at the point of origin of an accession. The direction and magnitude of these correlations varies across the leaf series, suggesting that heterochronic and/or ontogenic programs are a mechanism by which selective pressures can alter leaf size and form. This study highlights the value of wild tomato accessions for studies of both morphological and light-regulated development of compound leaves, and promises to be useful in the future identification of genes regulating potentially adaptive plastic leaf traits.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Colorimetry
  • Ecotype
  • Environment*
  • Light
  • Lycopersicon esculentum / anatomy & histology*
  • Lycopersicon esculentum / radiation effects*
  • Models, Biological*
  • Organ Size / radiation effects
  • Plant Leaves / anatomy & histology*
  • Plant Leaves / radiation effects*
  • Quantitative Trait, Heritable
  • Rain
  • Species Specificity
  • Temperature