Leaf asymmetry as a developmental constraint imposed by auxin-dependent phyllotactic patterning

Plant Cell. 2012 Jun;24(6):2318-27. doi: 10.1105/tpc.112.098798. Epub 2012 Jun 21.


In a majority of species, leaf development is thought to proceed in a bilaterally symmetric fashion without systematic asymmetries. This is despite the left and right sides of an initiating primordium occupying niches that differ in their distance from sinks and sources of auxin. Here, we revisit an existing model of auxin transport sufficient to recreate spiral phyllotactic patterns and find previously overlooked asymmetries between auxin distribution and the centers of leaf primordia. We show that it is the direction of the phyllotactic spiral that determines the side of the leaf these asymmetries fall on. We empirically confirm the presence of an asymmetric auxin response using a DR5 reporter and observe morphological asymmetries in young leaf primordia. Notably, these morphological asymmetries persist in mature leaves, and we observe left-right asymmetries in the superficially bilaterally symmetric leaves of tomato (Solanum lycopersicum) and Arabidopsis thaliana that are consistent with modeled predictions. We further demonstrate that auxin application to a single side of a leaf primordium is sufficient to recapitulate the asymmetries we observe. Our results provide a framework to study a previously overlooked developmental axis and provide insights into the developmental constraints imposed upon leaf morphology by auxin-dependent phyllotactic patterning.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Arabidopsis / growth & development*
  • Arabidopsis / metabolism
  • Biological Transport
  • Body Patterning*
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Plant
  • Genes, Reporter
  • Indoleacetic Acids / metabolism*
  • Indoleacetic Acids / pharmacology
  • Plant Leaves / anatomy & histology*
  • Plant Leaves / drug effects
  • Plant Leaves / growth & development*
  • Solanum lycopersicum / genetics
  • Solanum lycopersicum / growth & development*
  • Solanum lycopersicum / metabolism


  • Indoleacetic Acids