Multi-scale whole-plant model of arabidopsis growth to flowering
In this study, theoretical and experimental approaches were combined, using Arabidopsis as the studied species. The multi-scale model incorporates the following, existing sub-models: a phenology model that can predict the flowering time of plants grown in the field, a gene circuit of the circadian clock network that regulates flowering through the photoperiod pathway, a process-based model describing carbon assimilation and resource partitioning, and a functional-structural module that determines shoot structure for light interception and root growth. First, the phenology model was examined on its ability to predict the flowering time of field plantings at different sites and seasons in light of the specific meteorological conditions that pertained. This analysis suggested that the synchrony of temperature and light cycles is important in promoting floral initiation. New features were incorporated into the phenology model that improved its predictive accuracy across seasons. Using both lab and field data, this study has revealed an important seasonal effect of night temperatures on flowering time. Further model adjustments to describe phytochrome (phy) mutants supported the findings and implicated phyB in the temporal gating of temperature-induced flowering. The improved phenology model was next linked to the clock gene circuit model. Simulation of clock mutants with different free-running periods highlighted the complex mechanism associated with daylength responses for the induction of flowering. Finally, the carbon assimilation and functional-structural growth modules were integrated to form the multi-component, whole-plant model. The integrated model was successfully validated with experimental data from a few genotypes grown in the laboratory. In conclusion, the model has the ability to predict the flowering time, leaf biomass and ecosystem exchange of plants grown under conditions of varying light intensity, temperature, CO2 level and photoperiod, though extensions of some model components to incorporate more biological details would be relevant. Nevertheless, this meso-scale model creates obvious application routes from molecular and cellular biology to crop improvement and biosphere management. It could provide a framework for whole-organism modelling to help address global issues such as food security and the energy crisis.