A common developmental program can produce diverse leaf shapes

Adam Runions1,2, Miltos Tsiantis2, and Przemyslaw Prusinkiewicz1
1. University of Calgary
2. Max Planck Institute for Plant Breeding Research


Eudicot leaves have astoundingly diverse shapes. The central problem addressed in our paper is the developmental origin of this diversity. To investigate this problem, we propose a computational model of leaf development that generalizes the largely conserved molecular program for the reference plants Arabidopsis thaliana, Cardamine hirsuta and Solanum lycopersicum. The model characterizes leaf development as a product of three interwoven processes:

  1. the patterning of serrations, lobes and/or leaflets on the leaf margin,
  2. the patterning of the vascular system, and
  3. the growth of the leaf blade spanning the main veins.
The veins play a significant morphogenetic role as a local determinant of growth directions. We show that small variations of this model can produce diverse leaf shapes, from simple to lobed to compound. It is thus plausible that diverse shapes of eudicot leaves result from small variations of a common developmental program.


Adam Runions, Miltos Tsiantis, and Przemyslaw Prusinkiewicz. A common developmental program can produce diverse leaf shapes. New Phytologist 216:401-418, 2017.

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