Project Outline

Plants continue to produce new tissues and organs throughout their life. Owing to these growth characteristics, periodically repeated structures appear in many scales in plant bodies. An important point to note for plant periodic structures is that the periodicity can readily change in response to both internal and external cues. This "modulation of periodicity" appears to be the basis for developmental plasticity in plants.

Mechanisms producing periodic structures in organisms are best studied for somitogenesis and epidermal patterning in animals. In the case of plants, root branching and phyllotactic leaf patterning are known to be correlated with periodic hormonal responses in time and space. However, molecular determinants of their periodicity and upstream modulators are so far unknown.

In this project, we work to elucidate the mechanisms of periodic structure development in plants and their role in establishing species-specific morphologies and growth plasticity. Special interests are directed to generators of oscillations and mechanisms modulating the periodicity. Close collaboration between plant biologists, information scientists, and mathematical biologists is one way to accelerate the project. Here, plant biologists analyze growth and developmental dynamics on many scales by live imaging analysis and searching for regulatory factors. Mathematical biologists take the approach of modelling oscillations and morphogenesis. Information scientists develop novel tools to help with the biologists' discoveries and data interpretations. Notably, organized collaboration between information scientists and plant developmental biologists is unprecedented, and one of the challenges of research which we are seeking to address in this project.

Interdisciplinary collaboration in this project is meant to be not just a form of technical complementation, but also an ideology of working synergistically to develop new tools and technologies. Once established, such tools and technologies will be shared by the project members. Fostering young researchers with interdisciplinary mindsets is another important goal of this project.

Elucidation of mechanisms which generate periodic structures and their modulation will provide answers to fundamental questions in plant developmental biology. Additionally, identification of genes associated with plant periodic structures is important for crop breeding, as plant productivity can be dramatically improved through mutations affecting the number of repetitive units.

Administrative Group

  • Principal Investigator
    Keiji Nakajima
    Professor, Graduate School of Science and Technology, Nara Institute of Science and Technology
  • Co-Investigator
    Masahiko Inami
    Professor, Research Center for Advanced Science and Technology, The University of Tokyo
  • Co-Investigator
    Takashi Ueda
    Professor, Division of Cellular Dynamics, National Institute for Basic Biology
  • Co-Investigator
    Minako Ueda
    Professor, Graduate School of Life Sciences, Tohoku University
  • Co-Investigator
    Motomu Endo
    Professor, Graduate School of Science and Technology, Nara Institute of Science and Technology
  • Co-Investigator
    Yoshihisa Oda
    Professor, Department of Gene Function and Phenomics, National Institute of Genetics
  • Co-Investigator
    Takayuki Kohchi
    Professor, Graduate School of Biostudies, Kyoto University
  • Co-Investigator
    Yohei Kondo
    Assistant Professor, Exploratory Research Center on Life and Living Systems, National Institutes of Natural Sciences
  • Co-Investigator
    Hirokazu Tsukaya
    Professor, Graduate School of Science, The University of Tokyo
  • Co-Investigator
    Hidehiro Fukaki
    Professor, Graduate School of Science, Kobe University
  • Co-Investigator
    Atsushi Mochizuki
    Professor, Institute for Frontier Life and Medical Sciences, Kyoto University


Hiroyuki Takeda Professor, The University of Tokyo
Satoshi Naito Professor, Hokkaido University
Akihiko Nakano Vice Director, RIKEN Center for Advanced Photonics
Tetsuya Higashiyama Professor, Nagoya University
Professor, The University of Tokyo
Michitaka Hirose Professor, Graduate School of Information Science and Technology, The University of Tokyo
Hiroo Fukuda Dean/Professor, Kyoto University of Advanced Science
Hisao Honda Visiting Professor, Kobe University