Towards virtual root hair cells?
Root hair cells offer an outstanding opportunity to study the entire development of a plant cell in the context of a developing organ. Throughout their lives, from cell divisions in the transparent root meristem, to the production and function of mature root hairs, hair cells and their contents are visible, and for most of this time, readily accessible at the root surface. Arabidopsis root hair genetics is very well established, and together with the results of transcriptomics, data mining, reverse genetics, and cell biology, is revealing processes that control the patterning of hair and non-hair cells, the expansion and elongation of root hair cells before root hair growth, root hair cell polarity, and root hair development itself. All of these processes involve dynamic interactions between components, and dynamic models are required to test current hypotheses about mechanisms. In collaboration with other root hair researchers and the CPIB virtual root project (Nottingham University), we are contemplating the ambitious goal of integrating knowledge of transcriptional regulation, hormone signalling and responses, cell wall properties and regulators, and the cell growth machinery to produce useful models of virtual root hair cells in the context of a virtual root.