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Concept: Meristem


Plants continuously extend their root and shoot systems through the action of meristems at their growing tips. By regulating which meristems are active, plants adjust their body plans to suit local environmental conditions. The transport network of the phytohormone auxin has been proposed to mediate this systemic growth coordination, due to its self-organising, environmentally sensitive properties. In particular, a positive feedback mechanism termed auxin transport canalization, which establishes auxin flow from active shoot meristems (auxin sources) to the roots (auxin sinks), has been proposed to mediate competition between shoot meristems and to balance shoot and root growth. Here we provide strong support for this hypothesis by demonstrating that a second hormone, strigolactone, regulates growth redistribution in the shoot by rapidly modulating auxin transport. A computational model in which strigolactone action is represented as an increase in the rate of removal of the auxin export protein, PIN1, from the plasma membrane can reproduce both the auxin transport and shoot branching phenotypes observed in various mutant combinations and strigolactone treatments, including the counterintuitive ability of strigolactones either to promote or inhibit shoot branching, depending on the auxin transport status of the plant. Consistent with this predicted mode of action, strigolactone signalling was found to trigger PIN1 depletion from the plasma membrane of xylem parenchyma cells in the stem. This effect could be detected within 10 minutes of strigolactone treatment and was independent of protein synthesis but dependent on clathrin-mediated membrane trafficking. Together these results support the hypothesis that growth across the plant shoot system is balanced by competition between shoot apices for a common auxin transport path to the root and that strigolactones regulate shoot branching by modulating this competition.

Concepts: Protein, Plant, Feedback, Root, Plant morphology, Plant stem, Meristem, Shoot


Roots and shoots of plant bodies develop from meristems-cell populations that self-renew and produce cells that undergo differentiation-located at the apices of axes [1].The oldest preserved root apices in which cellular anatomy can be imaged are found in nodules of permineralized fossil soils called coal balls [2], which formed in the Carboniferous coal swamp forests over 300 million years ago [3-9]. However, no fossil root apices described to date were actively growing at the time of preservation [3-10]. Because the cellular organization of meristems changes when root growth stops, it has been impossible to compare cellular dynamics as stem cells transition to differentiated cells in extinct and extant taxa [11]. We predicted that meristems of actively growing roots would be preserved in coal balls. Here we report the discovery of the first fossilized remains of an actively growing root meristem from permineralized Carboniferous soil with detail of the stem cells and differentiating cells preserved. The cellular organization of the meristem is unique. The position of the Körper-Kappe boundary, discrete root cap, and presence of many anticlinal cell divisions within a broad promeristem distinguish it from all other known root meristems. This discovery is important because it demonstrates that the same general cellular dynamics are conserved between the oldest extinct and extant root meristems. However, its unique cellular organization demonstrates that extant root meristem organization and development represents only a subset of the diversity that has existed since roots first evolved.

Concepts: Evolution, Stem cell, Plant, Cellular differentiation, Root, Extinction, Fossil, Meristem


Inflorescence architecture is a key determinant of yield potential in many crops and is patterned by the organization and developmental fate of axillary meristems. In cereals, flowers and grain are borne from spikelets, which differentiate in the final iteration of axillary meristem branching. In Setaria spp., inflorescence branches terminate in either a spikelet or a sterile bristle, and these structures appear to be paired. In this work, we leverage Setaria viridis to investigate a role for the phytohormones brassinosteroids (BRs) in specifying bristle identity and maintaining spikelet meristem determinacy. We report the molecular identification and characterization of the Bristleless 1 (Bsl1) locus in S. viridis, which encodes a rate-limiting enzyme in BR biosynthesis. Loss-of-function bsl1 mutants fail to initiate a bristle identity program, resulting in homeotic conversion of bristles to spikelets. In addition, spikelet meristem determinacy is altered in the mutants, which produce two florets per spikelet instead of one. Both of these phenotypes provide avenues for enhanced grain production in cereal crops. Our results indicate that the spatiotemporal restriction of BR biosynthesis at boundary domains influences meristem fate decisions during inflorescence development. The bsl1 mutants provide insight into the molecular basis underlying morphological variation in inflorescence architecture.

Concepts: DNA, Cellular differentiation, Cereal, Fruit, Vegetarian cuisine, Rice, Meristem, Cereals


In musculoskeletal tissues like bone, chemotherapy can impair progenitor cell differentiation and proliferation, resulting in decreased bone growth and mineralization throughout a patient’s lifetime. In the current study, we investigated the effects of chemotherapeutics on adipose-derived stem cell (ASC) function to determine whether this cell source could be a candidate for repairing, or even preventing, chemotherapy-induced tissue damage. Dose-dependent proliferation rates of ASCs and normal human fibroblasts (NHFs) were quantified after treatment with cytarabine (CY), etoposide (ETO), methotrexate (MTX), and vincristine (VIN) using a fluorescence-based assay. The influence of MTX on the multipotency of ASCs and freshly isolated stromal vascular fraction (SVF) cells was also evaluated using lineage-specific stains and spectrophotometry. ASC and NHF proliferation were equally inhibited by exposure to CY and ETO; however, when treated with MTX and VIN, ASCs exhibited greater resistance. This was especially apparent for MTX-treated samples, with ASC proliferation showing no inhibition for clinically relevant MTX doses ranging from 0.1 to 50μM. Additional experiments revealed that the differentiation potential of ASCs was not affected by MTX treatment and that upregulation of dihydrofolate reductase possibly contributed to this response. Moreover, SVF cells, which include ASCs, exhibited similar resistance to MTX impairment, with respect to cellular proliferation, clonogenicity, and differentiation capability. Therefore, we have shown that the regenerative properties of ASCs resist the cytotoxicity of MTX, identifying these cells as a potential key for repairing musculoskeletal damage in patients undergoing chemotherapy.

Concepts: DNA, Developmental biology, Stem cell, Bone marrow, Cellular differentiation, Tissue, Adult stem cell, Meristem


The xylem and phloem, major conducting and supporting tissues in vascular plants, are established by cell division and cell-type specification in the procambium/cambium. The organization of the xylem, phloem, and procambium/cambium is tightly controlled. However, the underlying regulatory mechanisms remain largely unknown. In this study, we report the discovery of two transcription factors, AT-HOOK MOTIF NUCLEAR LOCALIZED PROTEIN 3 (AHL3) and AHL4, which regulate vascular tissue boundaries in Arabidopsis thaliana roots. In either of the knockout mutants of AHL3 and AHL4, encoding closely related AT-hook transcription factors, a misspecification of tissue boundaries between the xylem and procambium occurred and ectopic xylem developed in the procambium domain. In plants, specific types of transcription factors can serve as direct intercellular signals by moving from one cell to another, playing crucial roles in tissue patterning. Adding to this paradigm, AHL4 moves actively from the procambium to xylem in the root meristem to regulate the tissue boundaries. When the intercellular movement of AHL4 was impaired, AHL4 could not complement the xylem phenotype in the ahl4. Furthermore, AHL4 revealed unique characteristics in that it interacts with AHL3 in vivo and that this interaction facilitates their intercellular trafficking. Taken together, this study uncovered a novel mechanism in vascular tissue patterning that requires the intercellular trafficking of two interacting transcription factors.

Concepts: Plant, Tissues, Vascular plant, Root, Xylem, Phloem, Meristem, Vascular tissue


Shoot apical meristems (SAMs) of higher plants harbor a set of stem-cells and provide cells for the development of all the above-ground biomass of plants. Most of the important pattern formation events such as maintenance of stem-cell identity, specification and differentiation of leaf/flower primordia, and temporal control of the transition from vegetative to reproductive program are determined in SAMs. Genetic analysis has revealed molecular and hormonal pathways involved in stem-cell maintenance, organ differentiation, and flowering time. However, limited information is available as to how different pathways interact with each other to function as a network in specifying different cell types and their function. Deciphering gene networks that underlie cell fate transitions requires new approaches aimed at assaying genome-scale expression patterns of genes at a single cell-type resolution. Here we provide details of experimental methods involved in protoplasting of SAM cells, generating cell type-specific gene expression profiles, and analysis platforms for identifying and inferring gene networks.

Concepts: DNA, Gene, Gene expression, Cell, Organism, Stem cell, Cellular differentiation, Meristem


Through its impact on photosynthesis and morphogenesis, light is the environmental factor that most affects plant architecture. Using light rather than chemicals to manage plant architecture could reduce the impact on the environment. However, the understanding of how light modulates plant architecture is still poor and further research is needed. To address this question, we examined the development of two rose cultivars, Rosa hybrida'Radrazz' and Rosa chinensis'Old Blush', cultivated under two light qualities. Plants were grown from one-node cuttings for 6 weeks under white or blue light at equal photosynthetic efficiencies. While plant development was totally inhibited in darkness, blue light could sustain full development from bud burst until flowering. Blue light reduced the net CO(2) assimilation rate of fully expanded leaves in both cultivars, despite increasing stomatal conductance and intercellular CO(2) concentrations. In ‘Radrazz’, the reduction in CO(2) assimilation under blue light was related to a decrease in photosynthetic pigment content, while in both cultivars, the chl a/b ratio increased. Surprisingly, blue light could induce the same organogenetic activity of the shoot apical meristem, growth of the metamers and flower development as white light. The normal development of rose plants under blue light reveals the strong adaptive properties of rose plants to their light environment. It also indicates that photomorphogenetic processes can all be triggered by blue wavelengths and that despite a lower assimilation rate, blue light can provide sufficient energy via photosynthesis to sustain normal growth and development in roses.

Concepts: Photosynthesis, Plant, Light, Cellular differentiation, Plant physiology, Leaf, Flower, Meristem


The plant vascular system, composed of xylem and phloem, evolved to connect plant organs and transport various molecules between them. During the post-embryonic growth, these conductive tissues constitutively form from cells that are derived from a lateral meristem, commonly called procambium and cambium. Procambium/cambium contains pluripotent stem cells and provides a microenvironment that maintains the stem cell population. Because vascular plants continue to form new tissues and organs throughout their life cycle, the formation and maintenance of stem cells are crucial for plant growth and development. In this decade, there has been considerable progress in understanding the molecular control of the organization and maintenance of stem cells in vascular plants. Noticeable advance has been made in elucidating the role of transcription factors and major plant hormones in stem cell maintenance and vascular tissue differentiation. These studies suggest the shared regulatory mechanisms among various types of plant stem cell pools. In this review, we focus on two aspects of stem cell function in the vascular cambium, cell proliferation and cell differentiation.

Concepts: DNA, Gene expression, Developmental biology, Stem cell, Cellular differentiation, Plant anatomy, Meristem, Vascular cambium


Backgrounds and AimsCurrent research in plant science has concentrated on revealing ontogenetic processes of key attributes in plant evolution. One recently discussed model is the ‘transient model’ successful in explaining some types of inflorescence architectures based on two main principles: the decline of the so called ‘vegetativeness’ (veg) factor and the transient nature of apical meristems in developing inflorescences. This study examines whether both principles find a concrete ontogenetic correlate in inflorescence development.MethodsTo test the ontogenetic base of veg decline and the transient character of apical meristems the ontogeny of meristematic size in developing inflorescences was investigated under scanning electron microscopy. Early and late inflorescence meristems were measured and compared during inflorescence development in 13 eudicot species from 11 families.Key ResultsThe initial size of the inflorescence meristem in closed inflorescences correlates with the number of nodes in the mature inflorescence. Conjunct compound inflorescences (panicles) show a constant decrease of meristematic size from early to late inflorescence meristems, while disjunct compound inflorescences present an enlargement by merging from early inflorescence meristems to late inflorescence meristems, implying a qualitative change of the apical meristems during ontogeny.ConclusionsPartial confirmation was found for the transient model for inflorescence architecture in the ontogeny: the initial size of the apical meristem in closed inflorescences is consistent with the postulated veg decline mechanism regulating the size of the inflorescence. However, the observed biphasic kinetics of the development of the apical meristem in compound racemes offers the primary explanation for their disjunct morphology, contrary to the putative exclusive transient mechanism in lateral axes as expected by the model.

Concepts: Developmental biology, Stem cell, Plant, Plant morphology, Meristem, Auxin, Inflorescence, Vascular cambium


Arabinogalactan-proteins are glycoproteins that occur in higher plants and are involved in important processes like cell differentiation and plant growth. In the medicinal plant Echinacea purpurea L., they belong to the putative immunomodulating compounds and are structurally well characterized. For microscopic localization of arabinogalactan-proteins, synthetic (β-D-Glc)3 Yariv phenylglycoside that specifically binds to most plant arabinogalactan-proteins was used to label arabinogalactan-proteins in fresh cut sections of stems and petioles of Echinacea purpurea. Polyclonal antibodies against (β-D-Glc)3 Yariv phenylglycoside were used to detect the arabinogalactan-protein-(β-D-Glc)3 Yariv phenylglycoside complex. After addition of fluorescein isothiocyanate-conjugated secondary antibodies, the sections were analyzed by confocal laser scanning microscopy. Arabinogalactan-proteins are localized mainly in the central cylinder in the collateral vascular bundles, especially in the area of the xylem. In cell walls of fully differentiated vessels and tracheids, arabinogalactan-proteins have been detected mainly at the inner area of the wall close to the cell lumina. Intense labeling occurs around pit canals connecting adjacent vessels. Furthermore, arabinogalactan-proteins are present in the lumina of cells of the sclerenchyma caps and in companion cells of the phloem.

Concepts: Plant, Cell wall, Vascular plant, Plant physiology, Plant anatomy, Xylem, Meristem, Plant cell