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


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.

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Figure 1: WOX5 expression in the quiescent centre is required for root meristem development.
Figure 2: WOX5 represses differentiation in the columella.
Figure 3: WOX5 interaction with SHR/SCR and auxin pathways.
Figure 4: WOX5 and WUS are interchangeable in stem cell control.


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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.

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Correspondence to Thomas Laux.

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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. (PDF 587 kb)

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Sarkar, A., Luijten, M., Miyashima, S. et al. Conserved factors regulate signalling in Arabidopsis thaliana shoot and root stem cell organizers. Nature 446, 811–814 (2007).

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