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J Plant Physiol. 2014 May 15;171(9):770-8. doi: 10.1016/j.jplph.2013.09.014. Epub 2013 Nov 21.

Exploring emergent properties in cellular homeostasis using OnGuard to model K+ and other ion transport in guard cells.

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Laboratory of Plant Physiology and Biophysics, University of Glasgow, Bower Building, Glasgow G12 8QQ, UK. Electronic address:
Laboratory of Plant Physiology and Biophysics, University of Glasgow, Bower Building, Glasgow G12 8QQ, UK.
Laboratoire de Biologie du Développement des Plantes, UMR 7265, CNRS/CEA/Aix-Marseille Université, Saint-Paul-lez-Durance, France.


It is widely recognized that the nature and characteristics of transport across eukaryotic membranes are so complex as to defy intuitive understanding. In these circumstances, quantitative mathematical modeling is an essential tool, both to integrate detailed knowledge of individual transporters and to extract the properties emergent from their interactions. As the first, fully integrated and quantitative modeling environment for the study of ion transport dynamics in a plant cell, OnGuard offers a unique tool for exploring homeostatic properties emerging from the interactions of ion transport, both at the plasma membrane and tonoplast in the guard cell. OnGuard has already yielded detail sufficient to guide phenotypic and mutational studies, and it represents a key step toward 'reverse engineering' of stomatal guard cell physiology, based on rational design and testing in simulation, to improve water use efficiency and carbon assimilation. Its construction from the HoTSig libraries enables translation of the software to other cell types, including growing root hairs and pollen. The problems inherent to transport are nonetheless challenging, and are compounded for those unfamiliar with conceptual 'mindset' of the modeler. Here we set out guidelines for the use of OnGuard and outline a standardized approach that will enable users to advance quickly to its application both in the classroom and laboratory. We also highlight the uncanny and emergent property of OnGuard models to reproduce the 'communication' evident between the plasma membrane and tonoplast of the guard cell.


Arabidopsis; Cytosolic and vacuolar; Cytosolic-free [Ca(2+)] and pH; Guard cell homeostasis; Systems biology

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