The goal of Research Area (RA) 1 is to determine how three largely disconnected fields, metabolism, life history, and development, are integrated to optimize plant performance.
Reproductive success and plant performance depend on integrating developmental decisions with metabolism across different scales, from cells to tissues, organs, and whole plants. For example, efficient photosynthetic carbon assimilation requires distinct spatial patterns of cellular differentiation in leaves, whereas the timing of floral induction is modulated according to the carbon status. These established examples inspired RA1 to initially focus on the interface between carbon metabolism, developmental processes, and life-history traits. A major underlying approach is to exploit variation between related species that use different strategies for integrating development and metabolism, such as those with compound versus simple leaves, C3 versus C4 metabolism, or annual versus perennial life history. We will utilize these systems to determine (1) how leaf form and anatomy are functionally related to photosynthetic physiology and plant performance; (2) how plant metabolic status is integrated with developmental decision making in meristems to influence yield and fitness; and (3) how vasculature and plasmodesmata contribute to resource allocation between plant organs and tissues at different developmental stages. A central goal is to determine predictive links between developmental processes and metabolic pathways at critical stages of the plant life cycle.