Letter | Published:

Conserved factors regulate signalling in Arabidopsis thaliana shoot and root stem cell organizers

Nature volume 446, pages 811814 (12 April 2007) | Download Citation


Throughout the lifespan of a plant, which in some cases can last more than one thousand years, the stem cell niches in the root and shoot apical meristems provide cells for the formation of complete root and shoot systems, respectively. Both niches are superficially different and it has remained unclear whether common regulatory mechanisms exist. Here we address whether root and shoot meristems use related factors for stem cell maintenance. In the root niche the quiescent centre cells, surrounded by the stem cells, express the homeobox gene WOX5 (WUSCHEL-RELATED HOMEOBOX 5)1, a homologue of the WUSCHEL (WUS) gene that non-cell-autonomously maintains stem cells in the shoot meristem2. Loss of WOX5 function in the root meristem stem cell niche causes terminal differentiation in distal stem cells and, redundantly with other regulators, also provokes differentiation of the proximal meristem. Conversely, gain of WOX5 function blocks differentiation of distal stem cell descendents that normally differentiate. Importantly, both WOX5 and WUS maintain stem cells in either a root or shoot context. Together, our data indicate that stem cell maintenance signalling in both meristems employs related regulators.

Access optionsAccess options

Rent or Buy article

Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.


All prices are NET prices.


  1. 1.

    et al. Expression dynamics of WOX genes mark cell fate decisions during early embryonic patterning in Arabidopsis thaliana. Development 131, 657–668 (2004)

  2. 2.

    et al. Role of WUSCHEL in regulating stem cell fate in the Arabidopsis shoot meristem. Cell 95, 805–815 (1998)

  3. 3.

    , & Stem cells find their niche. Nature 414, 98–104 (2001)

  4. 4.

    The stem cell concept in plants: a matter of debate. Cell 113, 281–283 (2003)

  5. 5.

    , , , & Short-range control of cell differentiation in the Arabidopsis root meristem. Nature 390, 287–289 (1997)

  6. 6.

    & Signals that regulate stem cell activity during plant development. Curr. Opin. Genet. Dev. 15, 388–394 (2005)

  7. 7.

    et al. The stem cell population of Arabidopsis shoot meristems is maintained by a regulatory loop between the CLAVATA and WUSCHEL genes. Cell 100, 635–644 (2000)

  8. 8.

    , , , & Dependence of stem cell fate in Arabidopsis on a feedback loop regulated by CLV3 activity. Science 289, 617–619 (2000)

  9. 9.

    et al. An auxin-dependent distal organizer of pattern and polarity in the Arabidopsis root. Cell 99, 463–472 (1999)

  10. 10.

    et al. The RETINOBLASTOMA-RELATED gene regulates stem cell maintenance in Arabidopsis roots. Cell 123, 1337–1349 (2005)

  11. 11.

    , , & SCARECROW is involved in positioning the stem cell niche in the Arabidopsis root meristem. Genes Dev. 17, 354–358 (2003)

  12. 12.

    et al. The PLETHORA genes mediate patterning of the Arabidopsis root stem cell niche. Cell 119, 109–120 (2004)

  13. 13.

    et al. Auxin triggers transient local signaling for cell specification in Arabidopsis embryogenesis. Dev. Cell 10, 265–270 (2006)

  14. 14.

    & The role of the Monopteros gene in organising the basal body region of the Arabidopsis embryo. Development 118, 575–587 (1993)

  15. 15.

    et al. The PIN auxin efflux facilitator network controls growth and patterning in Arabidopsis roots. Nature 433, 39–44 (2005)

  16. 16.

    , , & Intercellular movement of the putative transcription factor SHR in root patterning. Nature 413, 307–311 (2001)

  17. 17.

    , , & WUSCHEL induces shoot stem cell activity and developmental plasticity in the root meristem. Genes Dev. 18, 375–380 (2004)

  18. 18.

    et al. Mutations in the WUSCHEL gene of Arabidopsis thaliana result in the development of shoots without juvenile leaves. Plant J. 24, 91–101 (2000)

  19. 19.

    et al. Root-specific CLE19 overexpression and the sol1/2 suppressors implicate a CLV-like pathway in the control of Arabidopsis root meristem maintenance. Curr. Biol. 13, 1435–1441 (2003)

  20. 20.

    , , , & Loss of CLE40, a protein functionally equivalent to the stem cell restricting signal CLV3, enhances root waving in Arabidopsis.. Dev. Genes Evol. 213, 371–381 (2003)

  21. 21.

    & The origin and early evolution of plants on land. Nature 389, 33–39 (1997)

  22. 22.

    & The Origin and Early Diversification of Land Plants: a Cladistic study (Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington, 1997)

  23. 23.

    , & ARF1, a transcription factor that binds to auxin response elements. Science 276, 1865–1868 (1997)

  24. 24.

    , , , & The HOBBIT gene is required for formation of the root meristem in the Arabidopsis embryo. Development 125, 521–531 (1998)

Download references


We are grateful to E. van der Graaff for the data shown in Supplementary Fig. 4c, and E. Tucker, T. Demlow and B. Geiges for experimental help. We thank G. Jürgens for mp seeds, E. Kiegle and J. Haseloff for mGFP5ER and UAS vectors, M. Terlou for software development for root and meristem measurements, P. Graf for photography and E. Tucker and M. Tucker for comments on the manuscript. This work was sponsored by grants from the European Union (REGIA) and the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (to T.L.), a Netherlands Genomics Initiative grant (to R.H.), and grants from the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science and the Novartis Foundation (to K.N.).

Sequence of WOX5 mRNA is available in GenBank under accession numbers NM_111961 and AY251398.

Author information

Author notes

    • Ananda K. Sarkar
    •  & Marijn Luijten

    These authors contributed equally to this work.

    • Ananda K. Sarkar
    •  & Michael Lenhard

    Present addresses: Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, One Bungtown Road, Cold Spring Harbor, New York 11724, USA (A.K.S.); John Innes Centre, Colney Lane, Norwich, N4 7UH, UK (M.K.).


  1. Institute of Biology III, University of Freiburg, Schänzlestraße 1, 79104 Freiburg, Germany

    • Ananda K. Sarkar
    • , Michael Lenhard
    •  & Thomas Laux
  2. Department of Molecular Cell Biology, Utrecht University, Padualaan 8, 3584 CH Utrecht, The Netherlands

    • Marijn Luijten
    • , Ben Scheres
    •  & Renze Heidstra
  3. Graduate School of Biological Sciences, Nara Institute of Science and Technology, 8916-5 Takayama, Ikoma, Nara 630-0192, Japan

    • Shunsuke Miyashima
    • , Takashi Hashimoto
    •  & Keiji Nakajima


  1. Search for Ananda K. Sarkar in:

  2. Search for Marijn Luijten in:

  3. Search for Shunsuke Miyashima in:

  4. Search for Michael Lenhard in:

  5. Search for Takashi Hashimoto in:

  6. Search for Keiji Nakajima in:

  7. Search for Ben Scheres in:

  8. Search for Renze Heidstra in:

  9. Search for Thomas Laux in:

Competing interests

Reprints and permissions information is available at www.nature.com/reprints. The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Thomas Laux.

Supplementary information

PDF files

  1. 1.

    Supplementary Information

    This file contains Supplementary Figures 1-7 with Legends, Supplementary Tables 1-3, Supplementary Methods and additional references. The Supplementary Figures show a schematic representation of the shoot meristem, the wox5 alleles used in this work, additional data on the wox5 phenotype, WOX5 gene expression in different backgrounds, a comparison of WUS and WOX5 expression patterns, controls for rescue of wus-1, effects of WOX5 mis-expression, and a schematic representation of interactions in the root stem cell niche. The Supplementary Tables show frequencies of expression patterns and phenotypes.

About this article

Publication history






Further reading


By submitting a comment you agree to abide by our Terms and Community Guidelines. If you find something abusive or that does not comply with our terms or guidelines please flag it as inappropriate.