A Growth-Based Framework for Leaf Shape Development and Diversity

Cell. 2019 May 30;177(6):1405-1418.e17. doi: 10.1016/j.cell.2019.05.011. Epub 2019 May 23.


How do genes modify cellular growth to create morphological diversity? We study this problem in two related plants with differently shaped leaves: Arabidopsis thaliana (simple leaf shape) and Cardamine hirsuta (complex shape with leaflets). We use live imaging, modeling, and genetics to deconstruct these organ-level differences into their cell-level constituents: growth amount, direction, and differentiation. We show that leaf shape depends on the interplay of two growth modes: a conserved organ-wide growth mode that reflects differentiation; and a local, directional mode that involves the patterning of growth foci along the leaf edge. Shape diversity results from the distinct effects of two homeobox genes on these growth modes: SHOOTMERISTEMLESS broadens organ-wide growth relative to edge-patterning, enabling leaflet emergence, while REDUCED COMPLEXITY inhibits growth locally around emerging leaflets, accentuating shape differences created by patterning. We demonstrate the predictivity of our findings by reconstructing key features of C. hirsuta leaf morphology in A. thaliana. VIDEO ABSTRACT.

Keywords: Arabidopsis thaliana; Cardamine hirsuta; KNOX; RCO; computational modelling; growth and patterning; leaf development; live-imaging; morphogenesis; organ shape.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Arabidopsis / genetics
  • Arabidopsis / growth & development*
  • Cardamine / genetics
  • Cardamine / growth & development*
  • Cell Lineage / genetics
  • Computational Biology / methods
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Plant / genetics
  • Plant Leaves / genetics
  • Plant Leaves / growth & development*
  • Plant Proteins / metabolism


  • Plant Proteins