Life sciences : the formation of biological fractals

How is it that genetic changes have the impact they do on the shape, size and colour of plants, producing things such as broccoli, cauliflower or Romanesco ? This is something that researchers are only just beginning to understand. An international team led by Inria and the CNRS has shown new light on these phenomena through a combination of molecular biology, genetics and computer modelling. The results of their research were published in the prestigious journal Science.

"Disrupting a complex system and seeing if we can explain what happens as a result enables us to understand the system as a whole", explains Christophe Godin.

“Every advance made in modelling revealed shortcomings or weaknesses in our hypotheses”, explains François Parcy. “For example, I knew that the flower buds of plants such as cabbages and cauliflowers lost the activity of the floral genes and became stem buds, but I didn’t know why. Our model didn’t work until we were able to identify new regulations which stimulated the stem genes and caused this change in the nature of the buds.

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