11 December 2014
Phyllotaxis describes the regular position of leaves and flowers along plant stems. It is demonstrated that errors in this pattern can be related to meristem size and day length.
Using the plant model Arabidopsis, the relationship between day length, the size of the shoot apical meristem, and the robustness of phyllotactic patterns were analysed. First, it was found that reducing day length leads to an increased meristem size and an increased number of alterations in the final positions of organs along the stem. Most of the phyllotactic defects could be related to an altered tempo of organ emergence, while not affecting the spatial positions of organ initiations at the meristem. A correlation was also found between meristem size and the robustness of phyllotaxis in two accessions (Col-0 and WS-4) and a mutant ( clasp-1), independent of growth conditions. A reduced meristem size in clasp-1 was even associated with an increased robustness of the phyllotactic pattern, beyond what is observed in the wild type. Interestingly it was also possible to modulate the robustness of phyllotaxis in these different genotypes by changing day length. To conclude, it is shown first that robustness of the phyllotactic pattern is not maximal in the wild type, suggesting that, beyond its apparent stereotypical order, the robustness of phyllotaxis is regulated. Secondly, a role for day length in the robustness of the phyllotaxis was also identified, thus providing a new example of a link between patterning and environment in plants. Thirdly, the experimental results validate previous model predictions suggesting a contribution of meristem size in the robustness of phyllotaxis via the coupling between the temporal sequence and spatial pattern of organ initiations.