Section: Overall Objectives

Overall Objectives

The Virtual Plants team is a joint team between Inria, CIRAD and INRA located in Montpellier. The long-term focus of the project is to study plant development, its modulation by the environment and its control by genetic processes.

Plants are branching living organisms that develop throughout their lifetimes. Organs are created by small embryogenetic regions at the tip of each axis, called apical meristems. In the project Virtual Plants, we are interested in studying plant apical meristem functioning and development. We develop a detailed analysis of apical meristem processes, based on advanced mathematical and computational methods and tools, to get a deeper and better understanding of plant development.

This study is performed from two complementary perspectives.

  • First, at a macroscopic level, we develop an extensive methodology to analyze the structures produced by meristems. This can be seen as a methodology that aims to solve an inverse problem in which one tries to infer meristem functioning from the complex structures they produce. This analysis is carried out at different spatial and temporal scales.

  • Second, at a more microscopic level, we intend to exploit the recent spectacular scientific and technological progresses in developmental biology in order to understand how physiological and genetic processes control meristem growth at cell scale.

To develop these two scientific axes, we carry out research in three main categories of models and methods:

  • multiscale models for the spatial (topological and geometrical) representation of structured biological objects (which range from meristem tissues to branching structures),

  • methods and models for deciphering the organization of these complex biological objects,

  • and models for morphogenesis.

In order to make our methods and models available to our partners, all our tools are integrated in a common software platform: V-Plants. Based on this platform, we coordinate the development of an open software platform, OpenAlea, for plant modeling at a national and international level.