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Roeland Merks: "Cell-based modeling of multicellular development of plants and animals"

Wann 28.03.2011
von 11:15 bis 12:00
Wo FRIAS Seminarraum, Albertstr. 19, 79104 Freiburg
Kontakttelefon +49 761 203 97346
Teilnehmer Open to University employees
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Roeland Merks, Netherlands Institute for Systems Biology (NISB) and Centrum Wiskunde & Informatica (CWI), Amsterdam


Cell-based modeling of multicellular development of plants and animals

One of the most intriguing questions in biology is how a single cell develops into an adult organism. This problem of developmental biology becomes even more fascinating if you zoom in a bit. Each of the individual cells seemingly “knows” what it should do or where it should go to form the organism, without being able to see the whole. How do cells do that? Computational models are instrumental in answering that question. We illustrate this using problems in angiogenesis (blood vessel formation) and plant development.

The first part of the talk discusses our cell-based models of angiogenesis. Endothelial cells form the internal tapestry of blood vessels and are one of the key players of blood vessel growth in the embryo and in the adult. We can simplify angiogenesis by studying the endothelial cells’ behavior in isolation, in cell cultures. When cultured in a gel mimicking their natural environment, endothelial cells assemble into networks that resemble the embryonic blood vessel network. To find out how they can do that, we developed a simulation model based on observed behaviors of endothelial cells. This allows us to test our ideas of how cells assemble into shapes and patterns within the highly controlled environment of a computer simulation.

The second part of the talk discusses some models of plant tissue development. In contrast to the cells in many animal tissues, plant cells cannot migrate and, with very few exceptions, they cannot slide past each other. Consequently, plant morphogenesis depends entirely on patterned cell division, cell expansion, and cell differentiation. Therefore plant development requires different cell-centered models than those developed for animal development, in which cell migration and tissue folding play a primary role. We will present a cell-centered computer-modeling framework for plant tissue morphogenesis that we named VirtualLeaf. Eventually, Virtual Leaf should provide insight into gene function in the context of a growing leaf. Thus it should help plant researchers understand how the genetic knock-out or overexpression of a developmental gene will alter the normal course of development. We will illustrate the current use of VirtualLeaf with examples of auxin-driven vasculature development, determination of leaf shape, and meristem growth.