Mapping by VESGEN of Leaf Venation Patterning in Arabidopsis with Bioinformatic Dimensions of Gene Expression

Patricia Parsons-Wingerter, Mary B. Vickerman, Anna-Lisa Paul, Robert J. Ferl


The leaf venation patterning of higher land plants, the angiosperms that include maple, corn and ISS model organism Arabidopsis thaliana, is key to their terrestrial dominance. The venation-dependent photosynthetic capacity of adult angiosperm leaves is largely responsible for terrestrial production of glucose and atmospheric oxygen, and may be of fundamental importance to long-term space colonization. Yet leaves–particularly adult leaves–remain understudied in space compared to roots, in part due to the challenge of quantifying complex venation patterning. VESsel GENeration Analysis (VESGEN), a beta-level NASA software that analyzes vascular branching for biomedical applications, is being modified to map the branching venation patterns of dicot angiosperm leaves. By physiological branching rules, VESGEN decomposes a continuously connected vascular tree into its structural (dendritic) branching and reticulate (networked) capillary components. Bioinformatic dimensions of genetically regulated molecular expression were associated with vascular geometric dimensions.
For an Arabidopsis juvenile leaf flown on NASA Space Shuttle Mission (STS)-130, the venation patterning of larger structural vessel orders 1°-2° remained relatively constant compared to normal gravity (by vessel number density Nv, 1.24E-5/micron2 and 1.29E-5/micron2, respectively). However, as a measure of increased venation maturity, Nv of smaller reticulate orders ≥ 3° increased considerably from 7.7E-6/micron2 in ground control to 1.74E-5/micron2 in the STS-130 leaf. Vascular geometric complexity associated with growth-dependent gene expression increased during normal terrestrial maturation of an adult Arabidopsis leaf. We therefore propose that the genetically regulated response of Arabidopsis and other plants to microgravity environments be assessed by VESGEN mappings of leaf venation pattern.


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