, Volume 221, Issue 5, pp 607–618 | Cite as

Programmed cell death and leaf morphogenesis in Monstera obliqua (Araceae)

  • Arunika H. L. A. N. Gunawardena
  • Kathy Sault
  • Petra Donnelly
  • John S. Greenwood
  • Nancy G. Dengler


The unusual perforations in the leaf blades of Monstera obliqua (Araceae) arise through programmed cell death early in leaf development. At each perforation site, a discrete subpopulation of cells undergoes programmed cell death simultaneously, while neighboring protoderm and ground meristem cells are unaffected. Nuclei of cells within the perforation site become terminal deoxynucleotidyl transferase-mediated dUTP nick end labeling (TUNEL)-positive, indicating that DNA cleavage is an early event. Gel electrophoresis indicates that DNA cleavage is random and does not result in bands that represent multiples of internucleosomal units. Ultrastructural analysis of cells at the same stage reveals misshapen, densely stained nuclei with condensed chromatin, disrupted vacuoles, and condensed cytoplasm. Cell walls within the perforation site remain intact, although a small disk of dying tissue becomes detached from neighboring healthy tissues as the leaf expands and stretches the minute perforation. Exposed ground meristem cells at the rim of the perforation differentiate as epidermal cells. The cell biology of perforation formation in Monstera resembles that in the aquatic plant Aponogeton madagascariensis (Aponogetonaceae; Gunawardena et al. 2004), but the absence of cell wall degradation and the simultaneous execution of programmed cell death throughout the perforation site reflect the convergent evolution of this distinct mode of leaf morphogenesis in these distantly related plants.


Leaf development Monstera Perforation formation Programmed cell death TUNEL assay Ultrastructure 



Programmed cell death


Terminal deoxynucleotidyl transferase-mediated dUTP nick end labeling



We thank Dr Pauline Wang, Dr Keiko Yoshioka and Danielle Vidaurre for helpful advice on gel electrophoresis and Dr Ron Dengler for photography. We acknowledge funding from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada for Discovery Grants to NGD and JSG and for a Postdoctoral Fellowship to AHLANG.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • Arunika H. L. A. N. Gunawardena
    • 1
  • Kathy Sault
    • 1
  • Petra Donnelly
    • 1
  • John S. Greenwood
    • 2
  • Nancy G. Dengler
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of BotanyUniversity of TorontoTorontoCanada
  2. 2.Department of BotanyUniversity of GuelphGuelphCanada

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