Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Key developmental mechanism in plants explained for first time

Date:
March 7, 2013
Source:
Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory
Summary:
In simple animals like the fruit fly and more recently in plants and mammals, scientists have been able to identify some of the principal players in the developmental symphony. Scientists have now explained for the first time the operation of a mechanism in plants that controls a class of key developmental regulatory genes, called homeobox genes.

When a stem cell commits to becoming a leaf cell, how does a polycomb gene-repressing protein complex know where in the genome to go, and when? The normal development of an animal or plant can be compared in at least two ways with the successful performance of a great symphony. The whole is the product of a great number of events involving contributions by many different "players"; and these contributions must occur in a precise and almost perfectly coordinated temporal and spatial sequence.

In simple animals like the fruit fly and more recently in plants and mammals, scientists have been able to identify some of the principal players in the developmental symphony. Today, a team of researchers from Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (CSHL) explains for the first time the operation of a mechanism in plants that controls a class of key developmental regulatory genes, called homeobox genes.

The homeobox genes under study, called BREVIPEDICELLUS (BP) and KNAT2, need to be active in plant stem cells in order for the cells to maintain their non-specialized character. Stem cells are totipotent: they can develop, or "differentiate," into any plant cell type, depending on signals they receive which send them down the developmental path. When the moment is just right for plant organs such as leaves to begin to grow, BP and KNAT2 are switched off so that development can proceed.

"We were already familiar with the players in this regulatory mechanism, which have been conserved, or preserved, by evolution across species from flies to plants to animals," says CSHL Professor Marja Timmermans, who led the research team. "What we have not understood until now is how, in plants, the action of the players is very precisely coordinated in time and space."

It turns out that a highly conserved assembly of polycomb proteins, called Polycomb-repressive complex2 (PRC2), spurs a process called epigenetic regulation that physically marks targeted genes -- in this case, BP and KNAT2 -- for repression. But how do these protein complexes know where along the plant cell's genome to go, and when, in order to induce this gene-repressing effect?

The key discovery by the Timmermans team, which appears online today in the journal Genes & Development, is the identification of the mechanism that brings PRC2 to specific sites along the genome precisely in those cells committed to become a leaf.

Timmermans' team showed that PRC2 physically interacts with DNA binding proteins that attach to plant DNA in specific genome regions just ahead of where the homeobox genes are situated. In the plant they studied, Arabidopsis, those DNA binding proteins are ASYMMETRIC LEAVES1 (AS1) and AS2. When a stem cell commits to becoming a leaf cell, AS1 and AS2 become active, attach at the DNA sites near BP and KNAT2, and recruit PRC2 to repress these homeobox genes. The epigenetic mark made by PRC2, which acts like a cellular memory, is heritable, and is essential in order for leaves and other plant organs to develop.

In other locations along the genome, other analogous mechanisms are surely at work, says Timmermans, whose broad interest in this research concerns its implications for patterning in development.

Timmermans is intrigued to learn the effects of tweaking with the timing of regulatory gene expression and repression. She suspects small adjustments to expression of master regulators during development are one of the means by which evolution proceeds over vast stretches of time.

She also notes that by tweaking these developmental regulatory systems, it might be possible to beneficially affect plant regeneration -- the process in which a new plant is generated from the leaf of an existing one. This process involves de-differentiating a mature cell and returning it to a primitive developmental state before once again allowing it to proceed down a developmental path -- a process akin to that employed in the making of human IPS (induced pluripotent stem) cells.

This work was supported by grants from the New York State Department of Health (C024308) and the National Science Foundation (MCB-0616114).


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. M. Lodha, C. F. Marco, M. C. P. Timmermans. The ASYMMETRIC LEAVES complex maintains repression of KNOX homeobox genes via direct recruitment of Polycomb-repressive complex2. Genes & Development, 2013; DOI: 10.1101/gad.211425.112

Cite This Page:

Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory. "Key developmental mechanism in plants explained for first time." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 7 March 2013. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/03/130307124758.htm>.
Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory. (2013, March 7). Key developmental mechanism in plants explained for first time. ScienceDaily. Retrieved August 21, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/03/130307124758.htm
Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory. "Key developmental mechanism in plants explained for first time." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/03/130307124758.htm (accessed August 21, 2014).

Share This




More Plants & Animals News

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Drug Used To Treat 'Ebola's Cousin' Shows Promise

Drug Used To Treat 'Ebola's Cousin' Shows Promise

Newsy (Aug. 21, 2014) — An experimental drug used to treat Marburg virus in rhesus monkeys could give new insight into a similar treatment for Ebola. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Terrifying City-Dwelling Spiders Are Bigger And More Fertile

Terrifying City-Dwelling Spiders Are Bigger And More Fertile

Newsy (Aug. 21, 2014) — According to a new study, spiders that live in cities are bigger, fatter and multiply faster. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Lost Brain Cells To Blame For Sleep Problems Among Seniors

Lost Brain Cells To Blame For Sleep Problems Among Seniors

Newsy (Aug. 21, 2014) — According to a new study, elderly people might have trouble sleeping because of the loss of a certain group of neurons in the brain. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Ramen Health Risks: The Dark Side of the Noodle

Ramen Health Risks: The Dark Side of the Noodle

AP (Aug. 21, 2014) — South Koreans eat more instant ramen noodles per capita than anywhere else in the world. But American researchers say eating too much may increase the risk of diabetes, heart disease and stroke. (Aug. 21) 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