Of puzzles and pavements: a quantitative exploration of leaf epidermal cell shape.
Epidermal cells of leaves are diverse: tabular pavement cells, trichomes, and stomatal complexes. Pavement cells from the monocot Zea mays (maize) and the eudicot Arabidopsis thaliana (Arabidopsis) have highly undulate anticlinal walls. The molecular basis for generating these undulating margins has been extensively investigated in these species. This has led to two assumptions: first, that particular plant lineages are characterized by particular pavement cell shapes; and second, that undulatory cell shapes are common enough to be model shapes. To test these assumptions, we quantified pavement cell shape in epidermides from the leaves of 278 vascular plant taxa. We found that monocot pavement cells tended to have weakly undulating margins, fern cells had strongly undulating margins, and eudicot cells showed no particular undulation degree. Cells with highly undulating margins, like those of Arabidopsis and maize, were in the minority. We also found a trend towards more undulating cell margins on abaxial leaf surfaces; and that highly elongated leaves in ferns, monocots and gymnosperms tended to have highly elongated cells. Our results reveal the diversity of pavement cell shapes, and lays the quantitative groundwork for testing hypotheses about pavement cell form and function within a phylogenetic context.