Network properties underlying seed germination control

Steven Penfield & John Fozard

We sought to gain a mechanistic understanding of the control of seed dormancy and germination by hormone balance. The field has matured to a stage where most of the key genes are known, and competing hypotheses have been proposed to explain how hormone balance works in seeds. During the meeting we simplified a more complex model of seed germination (Figure 1), reducing it to a tractable network. We then showed that if considered as a set of competing protein complexes the network took on the properties of a switch. Results from two models of the reduced network, which incorporated the biological switching phenomena, were found to be in good agreement with both wild and mutant phenotypic data. Our models made the novel prediction that one complex in particular was key to promoting germination, and this prediction can now be tested in the laboratory.

Proceedings of the Mathematics in the Plant Sciences Study Group