Large-scale analysis and computer modeling reveal hidden regularities behind variability of cell division patterns in Arabidopsis thaliana embryogenesis

Elife. 2022 Nov 29:11:e79224. doi: 10.7554/eLife.79224.


Noise plays a major role in cellular processes and in the development of tissues and organs. Several studies have examined the origin, the integration or the accommodation of noise in gene expression, cell growth and elaboration of organ shape. By contrast, much less is known about variability in cell division plane positioning, its origin and links with cell geometry, and its impact on tissue organization. Taking advantage of the first-stereotyped-then-variable division patterns in the embryo of the model plant Arabidopsis thaliana, we combined 3D imaging and quantitative cell shape and cell lineage analysis together with mathematical and computer modeling to perform a large-scale, systematic analysis of variability in division plane orientation. Our results reveal that, paradoxically, variability in cell division patterns of Arabidopsis embryos is accompanied by a progressive reduction of heterogeneity in cell shape topology. The paradox is solved by showing that variability operates within a reduced repertoire of possible division plane orientations that is related to cell geometry. We show that in several domains of the embryo, a recently proposed geometrical division rule recapitulates observed variable patterns, suggesting that variable patterns emerge from deterministic principles operating in a variable geometrical context. Our work highlights the importance of emerging patterns in the plant embryo under iterated division principles, but also reveal domains where deviations between rule predictions and experimental observations point to additional regulatory mechanisms.

Keywords: A. thaliana; cell shape; computational biology; developmental biology; division plane positioning; plant embryo; systems biology; variability.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Arabidopsis* / genetics
  • Cell Division
  • Computer Simulation
  • Computers
  • Embryonic Development

Grants and funding

The funders had no role in study design, data collection and interpretation, or the decision to submit the work for publication.