We consider computational modeling of biological systems that consist of discrete components arranged into linear structures. As time advances, these components may process information, communicate and divide. We show that: (1) the topological notion of cell complexes provides a useful framework for simulating information processing and flow between components; (2) an index-free notation exploiting topological adjacencies in the structure is needed to conveniently model structures in which the number of components changes (for example, due to cell division); and (3) Lindenmayer systems operating on cell complexes combine the above elements in the case of linear structures. These observations provide guidance for constructing L-systems and explain their modeling power. L-systems operating on cell complexes are illustrated by revisiting models of heterocyst formation in Anabaena and by presenting a simple model of leaf development focused on the morphogenetic role of the leaf margin.
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