This article is from
Creation 38(4):56, October 2016

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Plants’ jigsaw puzzle adds to the big picture



Little by little, piece by piece, man’s knowledge of the internal workings of plants is growing—akin to the putting together of a large jigsaw puzzle. And speaking of jigsaw puzzles, plants actually manufacture their own—in the leaves.1,2 All pavement cells3 in the leaf epidermis “grow into interlocking patterns resembling jigsaw puzzle pieces.”4

So despite the leaf’s thin and delicate appearance, the interlocking jigsaw-like structures “provide the strength necessary to allow the plant to grow and thrive”.

Researchers have now identified some of the molecular processes regulating cell growth so as to form the jigsaw pattern “in a controlled and ordered way”. A group of enzymes known as GTPases (guanosine triphosphatases) play a key role in “a complicated and coordinated series” of chemical interactions. In simple terms, these proteins tell one part of a cell to grow outward to form a ‘lobe’ while correspondingly telling the neighbouring cell at that point to recede or indent itself so as to form a ‘neck’1 that interlocks perfectly.

Controlled, ordered, complicated, coordinated. While there’s still much more to learn about how construction of the jigsaw pattern can be coordinated in such an orderly manner,5 what is already known about the phenomenon has been described as “a finely tuned biological dance”.

This is not the only time that scientists have referred to the workings of plants in such terms. For instance, when they discovered roots grow in rhythmic pulses, one researcher said, “Everything’s coordinated. It’s like a dance,” with the “entire complicated ballet” repeating every three minutes.6

Of course, such finely-tuned, coordinated ‘dances’ don’t fit the no-Designer-was-necessary evolutionary storyline so often paraded today. Rather, a very different ‘big picture’ emerges, for those with eyes to see. Orderliness, where every piece of the puzzle fits in perfect and strengthening juxtaposition with its neighbours, cannot arise by itself from disorder, but only by design. And contrary to atheistic scoffing, recognizing God as Creator gives more impetus and motivation for undertaking scientific research, not less. For who would not want to explore and admire the intricacies performed by the Hand of the Master Designer? As the Psalmist wrote, “Great are the works of the LORD, studied by all who delight in them” (Psalm 111:2).

Posted on homepage: 12 September 2018

References and notes

  1. Settleman, J., Intercalating Arabidopsis leaf cells: A jigsaw puzzle of lobes, necks, ROPs, and RICs, Cell 120(5):570–572, 2005 | doi:10.1016/j.cell.2005.02.028. Return to text.
  2. Fu, Y., and 4 others, Arabidopsis interdigitating cell growth requires two antagonistic pathways with opposing action on cell morphogenesis, Cell 120(5):687–700, 2005 | doi:10.1016/j.cell.2004.12.026. Return to text.
  3. Pavement cells make up the majority of the plant’s leaf surface (epidermis) cells. Return to text.
  4. All quotes concerning the jigsaw-like interdigitation of leaf pavement cells in this article are sourced from: Lovekin, K., Researchers unlock mechanism creating jigsaw puzzle-like plant cells—Chemical pathways allow plant cells to develop in interlocking patterns, adding strength to leaves, University of California—Riverside media release, newsroom.ucr.edu, 10 March 2005. Return to text.
  5. Li, H., and 8 others, Phosphorylation switch modulates the interdigitated pattern of PIN1 localization and cell expansion in Arabidopsis leaf epidermis, Cell Research 21:970–978, 2011 | doi:10.1038/cr.2011.49. Return to text.
  6. Fisher, M., What lies beneath: Growth of root cells remarkably dynamic, study finds, University of Wisconsin news release, news.wisc.edu, 3 December 2007. Also see Catchpoole, D., Pulsating plants, Creation 32(2):36–37, 2010; creation.com/pulsating. Return to text.

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