Research Groups


Uncovering the secrets of root growth

January 2016. Plants produce new organs throughout their lifespan. It is largely unknown whether this robust post-embryonic organ formation results from stereotypic dynamic processes, in which the arrangement of cells follows rigid rules. A team of scientists from the Universities of Frankfurt and Heidelberg combined modeling with empirical observations of whole-organ development to identify the principles governing lateral root formation using the model plant Arabidopsis.

The scientists observed that lateral roots derive from a small pool of founder cells in which some take a dominant role as seen by lineage tracing. The first division of the founders is asymmetric, tightly regulated and determines the formation of a layered structure. The pattern of subsequent cell divisions is not stereotypic between different samples and it is characterized by a regular switch in division plane orientation. This switch is also necessary for the appearance of patterned layers as a result of the apical growth of the primordium. The new data suggest that lateral root morphogenesis is based on a limited set of rules. They determine cell growth and division orientation. The organ-level coupling of the cell behavior ensures the emergence of the lateral root’s characteristic features. The scientists propose that self-organizing, non-deterministic modes of development account for the robustness of plant organ morphogenesis. The study was published recently in the jounal Current Biology. More ...



Ernst H. K. Stelzer & Alexander Schmitz, Buchmann Institute for Molecular Life Sciences, Institute of Cell Biology and Neuroscience, Riedberg Campus, Tel.: +49 (0)69 798-42547/-42551,


Daniel von Wangenheim, Jens Fangerau, Alexander Schmitz, Richard S. Smith, Heike Leitte, Ernst H.K. Stelzer, Alexis Maizel: Rules and self-organizing properties of post-embryonic plant organ cell division patterns, in: Current Biology, 28.1.2016, DOI: doi:10.1016/j.cub.2015.12.047. Link