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PhD Project : « Building mechanical models of morphogenesis in plants »

Institute :

Laboratoires Joliot-Curie and Reproduction et Développement des Plantes, ENS Lyon

PhD supervisor :


Email adress and phone number :

Arezki.Boudaoud(A)ens-lyon.fr, 04 72 72 88 75

Team members involved :


Project description :

The emergence of shape in an organism involves changes in its structural elements — adding new materials and remodeling old materials. In this context, morphogenesis appears as a physical process guided by the activity of cells. Therefore the investigation of morphogenesis must also address the dynamics of the structural elements of the organism during its development. Plants are perfectly suited for such an investigation, as their shape is mostly imposed by the stiff cell walls that surround cells and by the osmotic pressure that inflates cells. The main goal of the project is to build predictive mechanical models of morphogenesis. Theses models will be based on a representation of walls and cells as visco-elastic elements (springs or ellipsoids), viscosity being an effective representation of growth. The team has a strong background in this approach for two-dimensional tissues, and the project will address extensions to three-dimensional tissues. A first question will be that of the maintenance of a stable, dynamic, axisymmetric dome at the tip of the stem. What is the minimal set of rules to obtain such a stationary shape ? Do these rules allow us to reproduce the variability of shapes observed in Nature ? A second direction is to use measurements of growth performed in the team to infer the parameters of mechanical models. Do these inferred parameters correlate with the genetic identity of cells ? Is it possible to predict morphogenesis in other situations using this set of parameters ? More generally, the PhD work will help building a new framework for morphogenesis.