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Regulation of phyllotaxis by polar auxin transport


The regular arrangement of leaves around a plant's stem, called phyllotaxis, has for centuries attracted the attention of philosophers, mathematicians and natural scientists; however, to date, studies of phyllotaxis have been largely theoretical. Leaves and flowers are formed from the shoot apical meristem, triggered by the plant hormone auxin. Auxin is transported through plant tissues by specific cellular influx and efflux carrier proteins. Here we show that proteins involved in auxin transport regulate phyllotaxis. Our data indicate that auxin is transported upwards into the meristem through the epidermis and the outermost meristem cell layer. Existing leaf primordia act as sinks, redistributing auxin and creating its heterogeneous distribution in the meristem. Auxin accumulation occurs only at certain minimal distances from existing primordia, defining the position of future primordia. This model for phyllotaxis accounts for its reiterative nature, as well as its regularity and stability.

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We thank J. Moore, J. Stuurman and S. Zeeman for critical reading of the manuscript, and T. Vernoux for generating pin1;pid double mutants and H. Morin for supporting experiments. This work was supported by grants from the Swiss National Science Foundation and from the European Union.

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Correspondence to Cris Kuhlemeier.

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Figure 1: Localization of the PIN1 protein in Arabidopsis apices.
Figure 2: Auxin-induced leaf and flower formation and PIN1 expression in mutants of Arabidopsis.
Figure 3: The role of PIN1 in organ separation and delimitation.
Figure 4: Localization and function of AUX1 in the meristem.
Figure 5: Model for the role of polar auxin transport in phyllotaxis.


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