A Virtual Root

The Centre’s core project aimed to create a multiscale model of a plant root, based on the model higher plant Arabidopsis thaliana. The work was divided into four themes:

  • Elongation of the primary root

    Strand one of the CPIB virtual root project seeks to understand how cells elongate in the root as it grows. We investigate processes which take place on multiple scales, incorporating molecular level information from hormone signalling networks through to macroscale mechanical properties of the cell wall (which controls growth). This work gives us insight into the complex mechanisms involved within the highly controlled process of cell elongation.

  • Root apical meristem development

    Strand two of the CPIB virtual root project focuses on the dividing cells in the root apical meristem. Mapping the site of action of key hormones helps us understand how they are involved in regulating cell division in the root.

  • The Lateral Root initiation and emergence

    Part of the research programme in Strand three of the CPIB core project seeks to model the patterning and development of lateral root primordia. Also, lateral roots originate deep within the parental root from a small number of founder cells at the periphery of vascular tissues and must emerge through intervening layers of tissues. This process has been defined as “Lateral Root Emergence”. Part of Strand three of the CPIB core project is focusing on modelling how hormones regulate this process. This has lead to a project which has been funded by the BBSRC and Syngenta on Lateral Root Emergence

  • Multiscale integration of the virtual root

    Strand 4 of the CPIB virtual root project seeks to integrate models at different physical scales developed within the other three strands of the CPIB project. Integrative models will describe whole root responses to environmental cues. This requires the coupling of models of processes such as cell growth, hormone transport and genetic regulation. Experimental data is used extensively to parameterise and validate the models.
    The Strand employs a wide range of tools from applied mathematics, computer science and statistics. Methods employed include mathematical multiscale asymptotic approaches, P-systems models, vertex-based multicellular simulation, statistical inference, Bayesian network models, hyper- and meta-heuristic optimisation and automated model synthesis. This activity is underpinned by an integrative model database and implementation of appropriate data standards.