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Actually, they’re not even fighting design any more

Arabidopsis studies clued scientists in/Vasiliy Koval / Fotoli

Not seriously, anyway. From “Key Mechanism That Regulates Shape and Growth of Plants Discovered” (ScienceDaily Aug. 16, 2011), we learn:

BC researchers have discovered a key mechanism that — much like a construction site foreperson — controls the direction of plant growth as well as the physical properties of the biopolymers that plants produce. The finding is a major clue in a 50-year-long quest to explain how plants coordinate the behaviour of millions of cells as they grow upward to compete for light, penetrate soil to obtain nutrients and water, and even open petals to flower.

But even though we simply must talk as if it was designed, it wasn’t. See?

The key word is microtubules, the “bones” of the cell. No one knew how they get organized into scaffolds.

An interdisciplinary team of plant cell biologists and mathematicians led by Wasteneys discovered that the inherent geometry of the cell itself plays an important role in the self-organization of microtubules into parallel arrays that guide cell growth and division. They also identified that a protein called CLASP plays a key role as a foreperson , modulating the geometric constraints of the cell.

“Simulation after simulation showed us that microtubules would form parallel arrays in the same patterns seen in living cells,” says Allard, now a post-doctoral researcher at the University of California, Davis. “We confirmed that the self-organization depends on the extrinsic cues from the cellular geometry, and that the presence of the CLASP protein along select edges modified the pattern dramatically.

They’re safe as long as they call design “self-organization.” Good thing, that.

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