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Ann Bot. 2008 May;101(8):1255-65. Epub 2007 Oct 7.

A system for modelling cell-cell interactions during plant morphogenesis.

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  • 1Department of Plant Sciences, University of Cambridge, Downing Street, Cambridge CB2 3EA, UK.



During the development of multicellular organisms, cells are capable of interacting with each other through a range of biological and physical mechanisms. A description of these networks of cell-cell interactions is essential for an understanding of how cellular activity is co-ordinated in regionalized functional entities such as tissues or organs. The difficulty of experimenting on living tissues has been a major limitation to describing such systems, and computer modelling appears particularly helpful to characterize the behaviour of multicellular systems. The experimental difficulties inherent to the multitude of parallel interactions that underlie cellular morphogenesis have led to the need for computer models.


A new generic model of plant cellular morphogenesis is described that expresses interactions amongst cellular entities explicitly: the plant is described as a multi-scale structure, and interactions between distinct entities is established through a topological neighbourhood. Tissues are represented as 2D biphasic systems where the cell wall responds to turgor pressure through a viscous yielding of the cell wall.


This principle was used in the development of the CellModeller software, a generic tool dedicated to the analysis and modelling of plant morphogenesis. The system was applied to three contrasting study cases illustrating genetic, hormonal and mechanical factors involved in plant morphogenesis.


Plant morphogenesis is fundamentally a cellular process and the CellModeller software, through its underlying generic model, provides an advanced research tool to analyse coupled physical and biological morphogenetic mechanisms.

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