A diffusible small-RNA-based Turing system dynamically coordinates organ polarity

© Scacchi et al.


The formation of a flat and thin leaf presents a developmentally challenging problem, requiring intricate regulation of adaxial–abaxial (top–bottom) polarity. The patterning principles controlling the spatial arrangement of these domains during organ growth have remained unclear. Here we show that this regulation in Arabidopsis thaliana is achieved by an organ-autonomous Turing reaction‐diffusion system centred on mobile small RNAs. The data illustrate how Turing dynamics transiently instructed by prepatterned information is sufficient to self‐sustain properly oriented polarity in a dynamic, growing organ, presenting intriguing parallels to left–right patterning in the vertebrate embryo. Computational modelling demonstrates that this self-organizing system continuously adapts to coordinate the robust planar polarity of a flat leaf while affording flexibility to generate the tissue patterns of evolutionarily diverse organ shapes. Our findings identify a small-RNA-based Turing network as a dynamic regulator of organ polarity that accounts for leaf shape diversity at the level of the individual organ, plant or species.

Nature Plants