Automated imaging of cells in developing plants is described in a paper published this week in Nature Methods. These methods will permit a more detailed understanding of the cellular behaviors that underlie plant growth and development.
A key question in organismal development and growth is how cellular behavior translates into the properties of the growing organism. In contrast to animals, in which the body plan is mostly laid down during early development, plants continue to grow and make specialized structures such as flowers and leaves throughout their lives. To understand this process, it is necessary to image and track the behavior of hundreds or even thousands of cells over time.
Christophe Godin and colleagues carry out confocal imaging of fluorescently stained plants and report a suite of computational methods with which they monitor the three-dimensional behavior of hundreds to thousands of cells in the developing flower of Arabidopsis thaliana and in growing rice roots. Their algorithms can identify individual cells and, with minimal human intervention, accurately track which cells divide to give rise to what other cells, over time. Using these approaches, Godin and colleagues monitor cell volume and position during the growth of Arabidopsis flowers, which will allow them to build quantitative models of plant growth.