Riddled with holes: Understanding air space formation in plant leaves.

Whitewoods, Christopher D  ORCID logo  https://orcid.org/0000-0001-6886-3572

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Plants use energy from sunlight to transform carbon dioxide from the air into complex organic molecules, ultimately producing much of the food we eat. To make this complex chemistry more efficient, plant leaves are intricately constructed in 3 dimensions: They are flat to maximise light capture and contain extensive internal air spaces to increase gas exchange for photosynthesis. Many years of work has built up an understanding of how leaves form flat blades, but the molecular mechanisms that control air space formation are poorly understood. Here, I review our current understanding of air space formation and outline how recent advances can be harnessed to answer key questions and take the field forward. Increasing our understanding of plant air spaces will not only allow us to understand a fundamental aspect of plant development, but also unlock the potential to engineer the internal structure of crops to make them more efficient at photosynthesis with lower water requirements and more resilient in the face of a changing environment.

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Unsolved Mystery, Biology and life sciences, Medicine and health sciences
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PLoS Biol
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Public Library of Science (PLoS)
Gatsby Charitable Foundation (David Sainsbury Career Development Fellowship)