Mechanisms of Regular Organ Development

Organogenesis—the growth and development of organs—is a remarkably consistent and imperturbable process in plants and animals. Cellular systems generally produce organs of normal size and shape despite variable environmental conditions, random fluctuations, and genetic variations. Human kidneys, for example, are similar both within an individual and between different individuals. For flowering plant species, the same is true of the outermost floral organs, called sepals, which must be uniform to properly enclose and protect the bud.

The ability to develop invariably despite perturbations is termed robustness, and scientists have proposed that the mechanisms supporting robustness in organogenesis include negative feedback loops, redundancy in regulatory networks, intercellular signaling to coordinate cell behaviors, spatiotemporal averaging of variability, and mechanical signaling. Yet how these mechanisms work is little understood.

Adrienne H.K. Roeder, Weill Institute for Cell and Molecular Biology/School of Integrative Plant Science, is investigating the mechanisms that generate robustness in organogenesis. Roeder has developed an innovative quantitative biology approach that combines live imaging, image processing, computational modeling, biomechanical tests, molecular genetics, and genomics. Working with a strain of Arabidopsis thaliana that produces sepals of variant sizes and shapes, researchers in her laboratory will elucidate the factors that contribute to robustness, including the role of mechanical signaling in spatiotemporal averaging, mechanisms that synchronize organ initiation, and the coordination of growth across three dimensions.

Roeder’s research will reveal processes underlying robustness of organ size and shape that are shared by plants and animals, including humans. This project could provide insights into birth defects that arise from irregular organogenesis.

NIH Award Number: 1R01GM134037-01A1

Cornell Researchers

Funding Received

$1.3 Million spanning 4 years