Cauliflower fractal forms arise from perturbations of floral gene networks

Eugenio Azpeitia, et al.

Science 09 Jul 2021:
Vol. 373, Issue 6551, pp. 192-197

Throughout development, plant meristems regularly produce organs in defined spiral, opposite, or whorl patterns. Cauliflowers present an unusual organ arrangement with a multitude of spirals nested over a wide range of scales. How such a fractal, self-similar organization emerges from developmental mechanisms has remained elusive. Combining experimental analyses in an Arabidopsis thaliana cauliflower-like mutant with modeling, we found that curd self-similarity arises because the meristems fail to form flowers but keep the “memory” of their transient passage in a floral state. Additional mutations affecting meristem growth can induce the production of conical structures reminiscent of the conspicuous fractal Romanesco shape. This study reveals how fractal-like forms may emerge from the combination of key, defined perturbations of floral developmental programs and growth dynamics.

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