The New Phytologist Trust is an independent, not-for-profit organization dedicated to the promotion of plant science. It owns and produces the international journals New Phytologist and Plants, People, Planet.

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New Phytologist Volume 216 Issue 4

New Phytologist

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Volume 216 Issue 4 | December 2017
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New Phytologist is an international journal offering rapid publication of high quality, original research in plant science. Covering four sections - Physiology & Development, Environment, Interaction and Evolution - articles cover topics that range from intracellular processes through to global environmental change. Cross-disciplinary approaches are particularly encouraged and we recognise that techniques from molecular and cell biology, and functional genomics through to modelling and system-based approaches will be applied across the whole spectrum of plant science.


The physics of pollinator attraction

This Tansley Insight focuses on recent advances in our understanding of how flowers manipulate physical forces to attract animal pollinators and ensure reproductive success. Research has traditionally explored the role of chemical pigments and volatile organic compounds as cues for pollinators, but recent reports have demonstrated the importance of physical and structural means of pollinator attraction. Here we explore the role of petal microstructure in influencing floral light capture and optics, analysing colour, gloss and polarization effects. We discuss the interaction between flower, pollinator and gravity, and how petal surface structure can influence that interaction. Finally, we consider the role of electrostatic forces in pollen transfer and pollinator attraction. We conclude that this new interdisciplinary field is evolving rapidly.

Why we need more non-seed plant models

Out of a hundred sequenced and published land plant genomes, four are not of flowering plants. This severely skewed taxonomic sampling hinders our comprehension of land plant evolution at large. Moreover, most genetically accessible model species are flowering plants as well. If we are to gain a deeper understanding of how plants evolved and still evolve, and which of their developmental patterns are ancestral or derived, we need to study a more diverse set of plants. Here, I thus argue that we need to sequence genomes of so far neglected lineages, and that we need to develop more non-seed plant model species.

Genetics of flower development in Ranunculales – a new, basal eudicot model order for studying flower evolution

Ranunculales, the sister group to all other eudicots, encompasses species with a remarkable floral diversity, which are currently emerging as new model organisms to address questions relating to the genetic architecture of flower morphology and its evolution. These questions concern either traits only found in members of the Ranunculales or traits that have convergently evolved in other large clades of flowering plants. We present recent results obtained on floral organ identity and number, symmetry evolution and spur formation in Ranunculales species. We discuss benefits and future prospects of evo-devo studies in Ranunculales, which can provide the opportunity to decipher the genetic architecture of novel floral traits and also to appraise the degree of conservation of genetic mechanisms involved in homoplasious traits.

Grass inflorescence architecture and evolution: the origin of novel signaling centers

A central goal of evo-devo is to understand how morphological diversity arises from existing developmental mechanisms, requiring a clear, predictive explanatory framework of the underlying developmental mechanisms. Despite an ever-increasing literature on genes regulating grass inflorescence development, an effective model of inflorescence patterning is lacking. I argue that the existing framework for grass inflorescence development, which invokes homeotic shifts in multiple distinct meristem identities, obscures a recurring theme emerging from developmental genetic studies in grass models, that is that inflorescence branching is regulated by novel localized signaling centers. Understanding the origin and function of these novel signaling centers will be key to future evo-devo work on the grass inflorescence.

Adjusting phenotypes via within- and across-generational plasticity

There is renewed interest in how transgenerational environmental effects, including epigenetic inheritance, contribute to adaptive evolution. The contribution of across-generation plasticity to adaptation, however, needs to be evaluated within the context of within-generation plasticity, which is often proposed to contribute more efficiently to adaptation because of the potentially greater accuracy of progeny than parental cues to predict progeny selective environments. We highlight recent empirical studies of transgenerational plasticity, and find that they do not consistently support predictions based on the higher predictive ability of progeny environmental cues. We discuss these findings within the context of the relative predictive ability of maternal and progeny cues, costs and constraints of plasticity in parental and progeny generations, and the dynamic nature of the adaptive value of within- and across-generation plasticity that varies with the process of adaptation itself. Such contingent and dynamically variable selection could account for the diversity of patterns of within- and across-generation plasticity observed in nature, and can influence the adaptive value of the persistence of environmental effects across generations.

A common developmental program can produce diverse leaf shapes

  • Eudicot leaves have astoundingly diverse shapes. The central problem addressed in this 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: the patterning of serrations, lobes and/or leaflets on the leaf margin; the patterning of the vascular system; and 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.

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