Universal rule for the symmetric division of plant cells

Sébastien Besson, Jacques Dumais

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

156 Scopus citations


The division of eukaryotic cells involves the assembly of complex cytoskeletal structures to exert the forces required for chromosome segregation and cytokinesis. In plants, empirical evidence suggests that tensional forces within the cytoskeleton cause cells to divide along the plane that minimizes the surface area of the cell plate (Errera's rule) while creating daughter cells of equal size. However, exceptions to Errera's rule cast doubt on whether a broadly applicable rule can be formulated for plant cell division. Here, we show that the selection of the plane of division involves a competition between alternative configurations whose geometries represent local area minima. We find that the probability of observing a particular division configuration increases inversely with its relative area according to an exponential probability distribution known as the Gibbs measure. Moreover, a comparison across land plants and their most recent algal ancestors confirms that the probability distribution is widely conserved and independent of cell shape and size. Using a maximum entropy formulation, we show that this empirical division rule is predicted by the dynamics of the tense cytoskeletal elements that lead to the positioning of the preprophase band. Based on the fact that the division plane is selected from the sole interaction of the cytoskeleton with cell shape, we posit that the new rule represents the default mechanism for plant cell division when internal or external cues are absent.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)6294-6299
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number15
StatePublished - 12 Apr 2011


  • Mitosis
  • Plant development
  • Tissue morphogenesis


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