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Why do we study pattern formation

Microscopic observation of plant sections allows one to realize beautiful cellular patterns. Why plants produce such beautiful patterns? Why do we need to study the patterning mechanisms?


The left panel shows a leaf cross section. Photosynthesis, the most important function of leaves, requires not only mesophyll cells that capture light energy, but also stomata and vascular tissues that function in gas exchange and transport, respectively. The right panel shows a root section, showing a radially symmetric tissue organization characteristic of this organ. In roots, water and ions are absorbed by the epidermis, and processed by the inner tissues, before arriving at the central vascular tissues that transport them to the above-ground organs. In either organ, functionally specialized cell types are organized into a fixed pattern that maximizes the function of each organ.

The process of organizing different cell types into a functional pattern is termed "pattern formation", or simply "patterning". Pattern formation constitutes the most basic element of multicellular ontogeny, including those of humans, insects, and plants.
The patterning process is inherent to the genomic information, as one can realize each species having nearly fixed size and shape. However, the mechanisms that translate genetic information into a final shape are far from being understood. Furthermore, as plant body organization can be altered depending on the growth phase and environmental conditions, new patterns have to be created later in the previously completed patterns. As such, plant pattern formation can be seen as a basis for their productivity and survival. Studying plant pattern formation is not just an issue of basic biology, but also to provide an intellectual framework on which application studies to utilize plant products are carried out.