PLoS computational biology

Multi-level modeling of light-induced stomatal opening offers new insights into its regulation by drought.

PMID 25393147


Plant guard cells gate CO2 uptake and transpirational water loss through stomatal pores. As a result of decades of experimental investigation, there is an abundance of information on the involvement of specific proteins and secondary messengers in the regulation of stomatal movements and on the pairwise relationships between guard cell components. We constructed a multi-level dynamic model of guard cell signal transduction during light-induced stomatal opening and of the effect of the plant hormone abscisic acid (ABA) on this process. The model integrates into a coherent network the direct and indirect biological evidence regarding the regulation of seventy components implicated in stomatal opening. Analysis of this signal transduction network identified robust cross-talk between blue light and ABA, in which [Ca2+]c plays a key role, and indicated an absence of cross-talk between red light and ABA. The dynamic model captured more than 10(31) distinct states for the system and yielded outcomes that were in qualitative agreement with a wide variety of previous experimental results. We obtained novel model predictions by simulating single component knockout phenotypes. We found that under white light or blue light, over 60%, and under red light, over 90% of all simulated knockouts had similar opening responses as wild type, showing that the system is robust against single node loss. The model revealed an open question concerning the effect of ABA on red light-induced stomatal opening. We experimentally showed that ABA is able to inhibit red light-induced stomatal opening, and our model offers possible hypotheses for the underlying mechanism, which point to potential future experiments. Our modelling methodology combines simplicity and flexibility with dynamic richness, making it well suited for a wide class of biological regulatory systems.