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School of Biosciences lead in new European Systems Biology Initiative

12 March 2010

Plant growth depends on stem cells located at the shoot tip and are organised within a dome-like structure known as the shoot apical meristem. New leaves and flowers form on the sides of this dome. Investigating how the shoot meristem is controlled is of fundamental importance to understanding how crops grow and the basis of crop productivity. The differences in meristem behaviour also leads to the great diversity of forms we see across the plant kingdom. Prof Jim Murray and Dr Walter Dewitte of the School of Biosciences have been awarded a €2 Million grant to coordinate a pan-European Systems Biology project to carry out predictive modelling of the shoot tip of the plant Arabidopsis. Prof Murray said "We know a lot about many genes that control the meristem, and also how new leaves form as a result of the plant hormone auxin. What we don't know is how they all work together to create a functioning overall system." 

The project, called "iSAM" or integrated analysis of the Shoot Apical Meristem brings together leading teams from across Europe to combine imaging, mathematical modelling and biological analysis to build computer models of shoot growth that will provide an overall understanding of the shoot and allow prediction of the effects of changing different aspects of the system. This new project builds on Prof Murray's recent research into the control of plant stem cell growth and development, funded by an earlier European Union Training Network. The new project will be coordinated from the Cardiff School of Biosciences and includes leading groups in France (Prof Jan Traas in Lyon and Prof. Christophe Godin in Montpellier) and Prof Yka Helariutta in Helsinki, Finland who bring expertise in image analysis, computer models and plant hormones. 

It is funded under the European Research Area network in Systems Biology Dewitte, W.et al (2007) Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA, 104: 14537-14542 

Systems biology of stem cell function in Arabidopsis thaliana

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