Growth-induced hormone dilution can explain the dynamics of plant root cell elongation

Leah R. Band*#, Susana Úbeda-Tomás*, Rosemary J. Dyson, Alistair M. Middleton, T. Charlie Hodgman, Markus R. Owen, Oliver E. Jensen, Malcolm J. Bennett & John R. King

In the elongation zone of the Arabidopsis thaliana plant root, cells undergo rapid elongation, increasing their length by ∼10-fold over 5 h while maintaining a constant radius. Although progress is being made in understanding how this growth is regulated, little consideration has been given as to how cell elongation affects the distribution of the key regulating hormones. Using a multiscale mathematical model and measurements of growth dynamics, we investigate the distribution of the hormone gibberellin in the root elongation zone. The model quantifies how rapid cell expansion causes gibberellin to dilute, creating a significant gradient in gibberellin levels. By incorporating the gibberellin signaling network, we simulate how gibberellin dilution affects the downstream components, including the growth-repressing DELLA proteins. We predict a gradient in DELLA that provides an explanation of the reduction in growth exhibited as cells move toward the end of the elongation zone. These results are validated at the molecular level by comparing predicted mRNA levels with transcriptomic data. To explore the dynamics further, we simulate perturbed systems in which gibberellin levels are reduced, considering both genetically modified and chemically treated roots. By modeling these cases, we predict how these perturbations affect gibberellin and DELLA levels and thereby provide insight into their altered growth dynamics.

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 109 (19), 7577-7582