Theoretical approaches to understanding root vascular patterning: A consensus between recent models

Nathan Mellor, Milad Adibi, Sedeer El-Showk, Bert De Rybel, John King, Ari Pekka Mähönen, Dolf Weijers*, Anthony Bishopp, Peter Etchells

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

28 Citations (Scopus)


The root vascular tissues provide an excellent system for studying organ patterning, as the specification of these tissues signals a transition from radial symmetry to bisymmetric patterns. The patterning process is controlled by the combined action of hormonal signaling/transport pathways, transcription factors, and miRNA that operate through a series of non-linear pathways to drive pattern formation collectively. With the discovery of multiple components and feedback loops controlling patterning, it has become increasingly difficult to understand how these interactions act in unison to determine pattern formation in multicellular tissues. Three independent mathematical models of root vascular patterning have been formulated in the last few years, providing an excellent example of how theoretical approaches can complement experimental studies to provide new insights into complex systems. In many aspects these models support each other; however, each study also provides its own novel findings and unique viewpoints. Here we reconcile these models by identifying the commonalities and exploring the differences between them by testing how transferable findings are between models. New simulations herein support the hypothesis that an asymmetry in auxin input can direct the formation of vascular pattern. We show that the xylem axis can act as a sole source of cytokinin and specify the correct pattern, but also that broader patterns of cytokinin production are also able to pattern the root. By comparing the three modeling approaches, we gain further insight into vascular patterning and identify several key areas for experimental investigation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)5-16
JournalJournal of Experimental Botany
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2017


  • Auxin
  • Cytokinin
  • Mathematical modeling
  • Organ patterning
  • Systems biology
  • Vascular development


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