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New Phytol. 2017 Jul;215(1):299-308. doi: 10.1111/nph.14573. Epub 2017 Apr 25.

What determines organ size differences between species? A meta-analysis of the cellular basis.

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Laboratory for Integrated Molecular Plant Physiology Research (IMPRES), Department of Biology, University of Antwerp, Groenenborgerlaan 171, 2020, Antwerpen, Belgium.
Laboratorio de Fisiología de Estrés Abiótico en Plantas, Unidad de Biotecnología 1, IIB-INTECH - CONICET - UNSAM, Chascomús, Argentina.


Little is known about how the characteristic differences in organ size between species are regulated. At the cellular level, the size of an organ is strictly regulated by cell division and expansion during its development. We performed a meta-analysis of the growth parameters of roots, and Graminae and eudicotyledonous leaves, to address the question of how quantitative variation in these two processes contributes to size differences across a range of species. We extracted or derived cellular parameters from published kinematic growth analyses. These data were subjected to linear regression analyses to identify the parameters that determine differences in organ growth. Our results demonstrate that, across all species and organs, similar conclusions can be made: cell number rather than cell size determines the final size of plant organs; cell number is determined by meristem size rather than the rate at which cells divide; cells that are small when leaving the meristem compensate by expanding for longer; mature cell size is primarily determined by the duration of cell expansion. These results identify the regulation of the transition from cell division to expansion as the key cellular mechanism targeted by the evolution of organ size.


cell division; cell expansion; leaves; meta-analysis; organ size; roots

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