Pollen patterns as a phase transition to modulated phases

Mathematical Biology Seminar
Wednesday, January 29, 2020 - 11:00am for 1 hour (actually 50 minutes)
Skiles 006
Asja Radja – Harvard University – radja.asja@gmail.comhttps://asjaradja.weebly.com/
Daniel Cruz

Pollen grain surface morphologies are famously diverse, and each species displays a unique, replicable pattern. The function of these microstructures, however, has not been elucidated. We show electron microscopy evidence that the templating of these patterns is formed by a phase separation of a polysaccharide mixture on the cell membrane surface. Here we present a Landau theory of phase transitions to ordered states describing all extant pollen morphologies. We show that 10% of all morphologies can be characterized as equilibrium states with a well-defined wavelength of the pattern. The rest of the patterns have a range of wavelengths on the surface that can be recapitulated by exploring the evolution of a conserved dynamics model. We then perform an evolutionary trait reconstruction. Surprisingly, we find that although the equilibrium states have evolved multiple times, evolution has not favored these ordered-polyhedral like shapes and perhaps their patterning is simply a natural consequence of a phase separation process without cross-linkers.