Shoot apical meristems are populations of dividing, undifferentiated cells that generate organs at the tips of stems and branches throughout the life of the plant. As they define the number, type and position of lateral organs, meristems are the basis of plant architecture, allowing plants to adapt their development to their environment. Significant progress has been made in this field during the last few years, but the complexity and lack of completeness of the available data is such, that an integrated view of meristem function is not yet possible.
Therefore, not only additional data, but also adapted mathematical and informatics approaches are now required to integrate the growing body of knowledge in such a way that it can advance the level of understanding in the field. This has not been possible, because of a lack of mathematical and computing tools. Indeed, there is an important need for a closer collaboration between mathematicians, computing scientists and biologist. To address these issues, SY-STEM will pursue the following objectives:
1. provide extensive training in biological sciences, informatics and mathematics and create an environment that favours the interaction and integration of these disciplines,
2. provide new technology platforms to study meristem function,
3. address key questions on meristem function and plant developmental biology using novel systems biology and modelling approaches.
To do so, 10 research groups will use genetic, molecular and cellular approaches, imaging techniques, as well as large-scale genomic techniques applied to the reference plant Arabidopsis. The integration of the unprecedented amount of data generated in this way will involve the expertise of the participating mathematicians and computing scientists, who will create new modelling tools.
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