Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Root or shoot: Power struggle between genetic master switches decides stem cell fate, growth orientation in plants

Date:
March 5, 2010
Source:
Salk Institute
Summary:
The first order of business for any fledgling plant embryo is to determine which end grows the shoot and which end puts down roots. Now, researchers expose the turf wars between two groups of antagonistic genetic master switches that set up a plant's polar axis with a root on one end and a shoot on the other.

During plant embryogenesis microRNAs, labeled green, play an important part in the tightly orchestrated choreography that determines what goes up and what goes down. They ensure that HD-ZIP III genes are only expressed in the shoot meristem, which gives rise to all the above-ground portions of a plant.
Credit: Image: Courtesy of Zachary R. Smith, Salk Institute for Biological Studies

The first order of business for any fledgling plant embryo is to determine which end grows the shoot and which end puts down roots. Now, researchers at the Salk Institute expose the turf wars between two groups of antagonistic genetic master switches that set up a plant's polar axis with a root on one end and a shoot on the other.

"In what is arguably the most important decision for a plant, setting up the root/shoot axis, occurs during the early embryonic stages," says the study's lead author Jeffrey A. Long, Ph.D., an assistant professor in the Plant Molecular and Cellular Biology Laboratory. "A tightly controlled balancing act between two groups of transcriptions factors ensures that they stay where they belong and don't get into each other's way."

Plant embryogenesis establishes a very simple structure that contains two stem cell populations: the shoot meristem, which will give rise to all the "above-ground" organs such as the stem, the leaves and the flowers, and is the site of photosynthesis; and the root meristem, which gives rise to the root system, which lies below the ground and provides water and nutrients to the plant.

"Since plant stem cells ultimately give rise to all edible parts of plants understanding how their fate and function are regulated can be directly applied to modify the architecture of plants and to increase the yields of agriculturally important crops," says Long.

The Salk researchers' findings are published in the Feb. 28, 2010 advance online edition of the journal Nature.

"This work shows how genes interact in complex ways to establish organs along the root-shoot axis," said Susan Haynes, Ph.D., who oversees developmental biology grants at the NIH's National Institute of General Medical Sciences. "The study reveals important parallels with the gene networks that coordinate organ formation in animal embryos, and helps us understand the critical mechanisms that guide normal development."

While investigating why a defective TOPLESS gene messes with a plant's basic architecture -- mutant embryos develop into a seedling topped with a second root instead of a stem with leaves -- Long and his team discovered functional TOPLESS codes for a repressor protein that inactivates genes that otherwise would cause root development in the shoot area of the plant.

In the current study Zachery R. Smith, a graduate student in Long's laboratory, discovered that these fate-transforming genes are actually two familiar characters: the genes PLETHORA 1 and 2 had been known to act as master regulators that determine the identity of the root meristem.

"Without TOPLESS to keep them turned off, however, these two transcription factors are free to impose their will on the top half of the plant embryo causing the development of a second root instead of a shoot," explains Smith.

With the "below-ground" hierarchy worked out, the question of how the identity of the shoot meristem is determined was still unanswered. Trying to unearth the missing master regulators of shoot development, Smith searched trough tens of thousands of mutant plants, till he hit on a member of the CLASS III HD-ZIP transcription factors, known as PHABULOSA, that fit the bill.

When the Salk researchers forcefully expressed members of the CLASS III HD-ZIP family in the traditional territory of the PLETHORA duo, it transformed the root into a shoot, resulting in a seedling with leaves on both ends. "Although it had been known that HD-ZIPs are involved in many aspects of plant polarity nobody had ever shown that they can transform a root pole into a shoot pole," says Long. "This and other experiments showed that HD-ZIP III genes are master regulators of apical fate in early embryogenesis."

Further studies revealed an antagonistic relationship between the PLETHORA and HD-ZIP III genes, both of which are under multiple modes of regulation that ensures proper spatial distribution and apical-basal patterning.

The work was supported in part by the Ray Thomas Edwards Foundation and the National Institutes of Health, NIGMS.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Salk Institute. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Zachery R. Smith & Jeff A. Long. Control of Arabidopsis apical-basal embryo polarity by antagonistic transcription factors. Nature, 2010; DOI: 10.1038/nature08843

Cite This Page:

Salk Institute. "Root or shoot: Power struggle between genetic master switches decides stem cell fate, growth orientation in plants." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 5 March 2010. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/02/100228131333.htm>.
Salk Institute. (2010, March 5). Root or shoot: Power struggle between genetic master switches decides stem cell fate, growth orientation in plants. ScienceDaily. Retrieved August 2, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/02/100228131333.htm
Salk Institute. "Root or shoot: Power struggle between genetic master switches decides stem cell fate, growth orientation in plants." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/02/100228131333.htm (accessed August 2, 2014).

Share This




More Plants & Animals News

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Pyrenees Orphan Bear Cub Gets Brand New Home

Pyrenees Orphan Bear Cub Gets Brand New Home

AFP (Aug. 1, 2014) The discovery of a bear cub in the Pyrenees mountains made headlines in April 2014. Despire several attempts to find the animal's mother, the cub remained alone. Now, the Pyrenees Conservation Foundation has constructed an enclosure. Duration: 00:31 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Ebola Vaccine Might Be Coming, But Where's It Been?

Ebola Vaccine Might Be Coming, But Where's It Been?

Newsy (Aug. 1, 2014) Health officials are working to fast-track a vaccine — the West-African Ebola outbreak has killed more than 700. But why didn't we already have one? Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Study Links Certain Birth Control Pills To Breast Cancer

Study Links Certain Birth Control Pills To Breast Cancer

Newsy (Aug. 1, 2014) Previous studies have made the link between birth control and breast cancer, but the latest makes the link to high-estrogen oral contraceptives. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Rare Whale Fossil Pulled from Calif. Backyard

Rare Whale Fossil Pulled from Calif. Backyard

AP (Aug. 1, 2014) A rare whale fossil has been pulled from a Southern California backyard. The 16- to 17-million-year-old baleen whale fossil is one of about 20 baleen whale fossils known to exist. (Aug. 1) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins