March 11, 2005 | David F. Coppedge

Plants Produce Jigsaw Puzzles

The cells on a leaf interlock one another, like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle.  In a manner similar to jigsaw puzzles, which can be lifted by the hand even though composed of individually-weak pieces, this gives the leaf structural strength.  How does this come about?  In the current issue of Cell,1 Jeffrey Settleman (Harvard) explains the work of Fu et al. that reveals an “elaborate mechanism” of controls and feedback systems.  Plants possess multiple proteins that interact: one can cause one wall of a cell to pinch in, while another bulges it out.  These “molecular switches” antagonize each other in delicate ways to produce the interlocking effect, as explained in a press release from UC Riverside:

These proteins tell one part of a cell to grow outward while telling its neighbor to recede or indent itself in a finely tuned biological dance.  The results are structures that, despite their delicate appearance and slenderness, provide the strength necessary to allow the plant to grow and thrive.
    The findings point out that these distinct signals play a critical role in the development of leaf cell walls and leaf structures in a controlled and ordered way and that genetically over expressing one or the other leads to cells lacking the interlocking jigsaw puzzle appearance.
  (Emphasis added in all quotes.)

They found that plants grown without the genes for these proteins could not produce the interlocking pattern.  Although they have made progress understanding how this works, there’s much more going on: “While the researchers unlocked a fascinating mechanism of biochemical crosstalk that coordinates cells into tissues, a deeper understanding of how plant cells chemically talk to each other to grow or recede in an ordered way remains unclear.”  For one thing, how does a protruding lobe find the corresponding socket?  What master control coordinates all the individual activities?  More research is needed.


1Jeffrey Settleman, “Intercalating Arabidopsis Leaf Cells: A Jigsaw Puzzle of Lobes, Necks, ROPs, and RICs,” Cell, Volume 120, Issue 5, 11 March 2005, Pages 570-572, doi:10.1016/j.cell.2005.02.025.

Things don’t just happen.  The intricate patterns in nature are controlled by elaborate mechanisms and programs.  Think of how weak a cell of cytoplasm is; how does it gain the strength to stand up against gravity, hold out its leaves, and grow?  Here is another example where multiple players work in a coordinated way for a purposeful result.  Why, then, do Darwin Party propagandists make outlandish claims that there is not a shred of evidence for creation?  If they cannot explicate in detail the “numerous, successive, slight modifications” that could achieve this kind of engineering by chance, they’ve got monstrous puzzles of their own.

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