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Cell density and airspace patterning in the leaf can be manipulated to increase leaf photosynthetic capacity

Lehmeier, Christoph; Pajor, Radoslaw; Lundgren, Marjorie R.; Mathers, Andrew; Sloan, Jen; Bauch, Marion; Mitchell, Alice; Bellasio, Chandra; Green, Adam; Bouyer, Daniel; Schnittger, Arp; Sturrock, Craig; Osborne, Colin P.; Rolfe, Stephen; Mooney, Sacha J.; Fleming, Andrew J.


Christoph Lehmeier

Radoslaw Pajor

Marjorie R. Lundgren

Andrew Mathers

Jen Sloan

Marion Bauch

Alice Mitchell

Chandra Bellasio

Adam Green

Daniel Bouyer

Arp Schnittger

Colin P. Osborne

Stephen Rolfe

Professor of Soil Physics

Andrew J. Fleming


The pattern of cell division, growth and separation during leaf development determines the pattern and volume of airspace in a leaf. The resulting balance of cellular material and airspace is expected to significantly influence the primary function of the leaf, photosynthesis, and yet the manner and degree to which cell division patterns affect airspace networks and photosynthesis remains largely unexplored. In this paper we investigate the relationship of cell size and patterning, airspace and photosynthesis by promoting and repressing the expression of cell cycle genes in the leaf mesophyll. Using microCT imaging to quantify leaf cellular architecture and fluorescence/gas exchange analysis to measure leaf function, we show that increased cell density in the mesophyll of Arabidopsis can be used to increase leaf photosynthetic capacity. Our analysis suggests that this occurs both by increasing tissue density (decreasing the relative volume of airspace) and by altering the pattern of airspace distribution within the leaf. Our results indicate that cell division patterns influence the photosynthetic performance of a leaf, and that it is possible to engineer improved photosynthesis via this approach.


Lehmeier, C., Pajor, R., Lundgren, M. R., Mathers, A., Sloan, J., Bauch, M., …Fleming, A. J. (2017). Cell density and airspace patterning in the leaf can be manipulated to increase leaf photosynthetic capacity. Plant Journal, 92(6),

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Sep 18, 2017
Online Publication Date Sep 29, 2017
Publication Date Dec 1, 2017
Deposit Date Jan 15, 2018
Publicly Available Date Jan 15, 2018
Journal The Plant Journal
Print ISSN 0960-7412
Electronic ISSN 1365-313X
Publisher Wiley
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 92
Issue 6
Keywords leaf; cell division; photosynthesis; Arabidopsis thaliana; differentiation
Public URL
Publisher URL


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