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Computational modeling of cell cycle activity and leaf development in Arabidopsis thaliana


The molecular and cellular basis of variation in leaf size and shape is poorly understood. Oriented cell divisions initiate (pro) vascular strands, and inversely the vascular tissue supplies growth factors to the leaf facilitating growth and division. Ther efore cell division and vascularization are functionally linked. Temporal characterization of cell division and expansion in wild-type and mutant Arabidopsis leaves, and parallel transcript profiling generated a unique set of growth related gene-expression data. Modeling is essential to establish functional relationships in these data. To connect ongoing top-down and bottom-up models we propose a dynamic, multicellular model of the developing Arabidopsis leaf. We start by modeling the oriented divisions ini tiating the procambium, driven by the interaction between oriented auxin transport and the presence of a second morphogen, e.g. a flavonoid. This suggests a feedback mechanism explaining vascular patterning. Secondly, we model the cross-talk between divisi on/growth and vasculogenesis. Eventually the model must become a hypothesis generator, and predict the effect of perturbations, which we can test against analyses of existing mutant plants. Thus the model becomes a crucial tool to link molecular processes involved in growth factor signaling, cell cycle and growth regulation and the morphogenesis of the leaf as a whole.The host coordinates the EU funded CAGE project which generates a data-set of 2000 micro-array gene-expression profiles. I will join a mult idisciplinary team of biologists, computer scientists and physicists, analyzing the plant growth regulatory system this data represents. My task will be to develop a model of leaf development which integrates cell cycle and cell division data. The project would allow me to further develop my career as a computational biologist, specializing in modeling multicellular development, at the same time gaining experience in the field of plant development.

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