A key approach to understanding how genes control growth and form is to analyze mutants in which shape and size have been perturbed. Although many mutants of this kind have been described in plants and animals, a general quantitative framework for describing them has yet to be established. Here we describe an approach based on Principal Component Analysis of organ landmarks and outlines. Applying this method to a collection of leaf shape mutants in Arabidopsis and Antirrhinum allows low-dimensional spaces to be constructed that capture the key variations in shape and size. Mutant phenotypes can be represented as vectors in these allometric spaces, allowing additive gene interactions to be readily described. The principal axis of each allometric space reflects size variation and an associated shape change. The shape change is similar to that observed during the later stages of normal development, suggesting that many phenotypic differences involve modulations in the timing of growth arrest. Comparison between allometric mutant spaces from different species reveals a similar range of phenotypic possibilities. The spaces therefore provide a general quantitative framework for exploring and comparing the development and evolution of form.
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