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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2020

In silico study of the role of cell growth factors in photosynthesis using a virtual leaf tissue generator coupled to a microscale photosynthesis gas exchange model

Retta, Moges A.; Abera, Metadel K.; Berghuijs, Herman N. C.; Verboven, Pieter; Struik, Paul C.; Nicolai, Bart M.


Computational tools that allow in silico analysis of the role of cell growth and division on photosynthesis are scarce. We present a freely available tool that combines a virtual leaf tissue generator and a two-dimensional microscale model of gas transport during C-3 photosynthesis. A total of 270 mesophyll geometries were generated with varying degrees of growth anisotropy, growth extent, and extent of schizogenous airspace formation in the palisade mesophyll. The anatomical properties of the virtual leaf tissue and microscopic cross-sections of actual leaf tissue of tomato (Solanum lycopersicum L.) were statistically compared. Model equations for transport of CO2 in the liquid phase of the leaf tissue were discretized over the geometries. The virtual leaf tissue generator produced a leaf anatomy of tomato that was statistically similar to real tomato leaf tissue. The response of photosynthesis to intercellular CO2 predicted by a model that used the virtual leaf tissue geometry compared well with measured values. The results indicate that the light-saturated rate of photosynthesis was influenced by interactive effects of extent and directionality of cell growth and degree of airspace formation through the exposed surface of mesophyll per leaf area. The tool could be used further in investigations of improving photosynthesis and gas exchange in relation to cell growth and leaf anatomy.


Biophysical model; cell growth; cell wall bio-mechanics; leaf anatomy; reaction-diffusion model; tissue expansion

Published in

Journal of Experimental Botany
2020, Volume: 71, number: 3, pages: 997-1009

    UKÄ Subject classification

    Biochemistry and Molecular Biology

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