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J Exp Bot. 2008;59(6):1399-407. doi: 10.1093/jxb/ern049. Epub 2008 Apr 5.

Shaping the shoot: the relative contribution of cell number and cell shape to variations in internode length between parent and hybrid apple trees.

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INRA, UMR Développement et Amélioration des Plantes, CIRAD-INRA-SupAgro, Team Architecture et Fonctionnement des Espèces Fruitières, 2, Place Viala, F-34060 Montpellier, France.


Genetic control of plant size and shape is a promising perspective, particularly in fruit trees, in order to select desirable genotypes. A recent study on architectural traits in an apple progeny showed that internode length was a highly heritable character. However, few studies have been devoted to internode cellular patterning in dicotyledonous stems, and the interplay between the two elementary cell processes that contribute to their length, i.e. cell division and elongation, is not fully understood. The present study aimed at unravelling their contributions in the genetic variation of internode length in a selection of F(1) and parent genotypes of apple tree, by exploring the number of cells and cell shape within mature internodes belonging to the main axes. The results highlighted that both the variables were homogeneous in samples collected either along a sagital line or along the pith width, and suggest that cell lengthening was homogeneous during internode development. They allowed the total number of cells to be estimated on the internode scale and opened up new perspectives for simplifying tissue sampling procedures for further investigations. Differences in internode length were observed between the genotypes, in particular between the parents, and partly resulted from a compensation between cell number and cell length. However, genetic variations in internode length primarily involved the number of cells, while cell length was more secondary. These results argue for an interplay between cellular and organismal control of internode shape that may involve the rib meristem.

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