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PLoS One. 2009 Dec 16;4(12):e8337. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0008337.

A theoretical model for ROP localisation by auxin in Arabidopsis root hair cells.

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School of Biological Sciences, University of Bristol, Bristol, United Kingdom.



Local activation of Rho GTPases is important for many functions including cell polarity, morphology, movement, and growth. Although a number of molecules affecting Rho-of-Plants small GTPase (ROP) signalling are known, it remains unclear how ROP activity becomes spatially organised. Arabidopsis root hair cells produce patches of ROP at consistent and predictable subcellular locations, where root hair growth subsequently occurs.


We present a mathematical model to show how interaction of the plant hormone auxin with ROPs could spontaneously lead to localised patches of active ROP via a Turing or Turing-like mechanism. Our results suggest that correct positioning of the ROP patch depends on the cell length, low diffusion of active ROP, a gradient in auxin concentration, and ROP levels. Our theory provides a unique explanation linking the molecular biology to the root hair phenotypes of multiple mutants and transgenic lines, including OX-ROP, CA-rop, aux1, axr3, tip1, eto1, etr1, and the triple mutant aux1 ein2 gnom(eb).


We show how interactions between Rho GTPases (in this case ROPs) and regulatory molecules (in this case auxin) could produce characteristic subcellular patterning that subsequently affects cell shape. This has important implications for research on the morphogenesis of plants and other eukaryotes. Our results also illustrate how gradient-regulated Turing systems provide a particularly robust and flexible mechanism for pattern formation.

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