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Plant Physiol. 2013 Mar;161(3):1086-96. doi: 10.1104/pp.112.210872. Epub 2013 Jan 18.

RootScape: a landmark-based system for rapid screening of root architecture in Arabidopsis.

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Center for Genomics and Systems Biology, New York University, New York, NY 10003, USA.


The architecture of plant roots affects essential functions including nutrient and water uptake, soil anchorage, and symbiotic interactions. Root architecture comprises many features that arise from the growth of the primary and lateral roots. These root features are dictated by the genetic background but are also highly responsive to the environment. Thus, root system architecture (RSA) represents an important and complex trait that is highly variable, affected by genotype × environment interactions, and relevant to survival/performance. Quantification of RSA in Arabidopsis (Arabidopsis thaliana) using plate-based tissue culture is a very common and relatively rapid assay, but quantifying RSA represents an experimental bottleneck when it comes to medium- or high-throughput approaches used in mutant or genotype screens. Here, we present RootScape, a landmark-based allometric method for rapid phenotyping of RSA using Arabidopsis as a case study. Using the software AAMToolbox, we created a 20-point landmark model that captures RSA as one integrated trait and used this model to quantify changes in the RSA of Arabidopsis (Columbia) wild-type plants grown under different hormone treatments. Principal component analysis was used to compare RootScape with conventional methods designed to measure root architecture. This analysis showed that RootScape efficiently captured nearly all the variation in root architecture detected by measuring individual root traits and is 5 to 10 times faster than conventional scoring. We validated RootScape by quantifying the plasticity of RSA in several mutant lines affected in hormone signaling. The RootScape analysis recapitulated previous results that described complex phenotypes in the mutants and identified novel gene × environment interactions.

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