Pushy neighbour sends several messages

Mar 30, 2010

How does a plant ensure that one cell remains responsible for making root cells for the rest of its life? The plant embryo contains the transcription factor MONOPTEROS. This tells its neighbouring cell to become a centre that controls stem cells for new growth. Dutch researcher Dolf Weijers has revealed for the first time how MONOPTEROS does that. Besides a hormone, the regulator also sends a protein to the chosen cell. The research results were published in the journal Nature on 10 March 2010.

How do you tell your neighbours that you would appreciate their party being quieter? Phoning often fails to help. Do you call out the police? That is exactly what plant genes do: they transmit two messages. MONOPTEROS, a transcription factor, has an important goal: commissioning a neighbouring cell to become the precursor of the root meristem. Thanks to meristems, growth tips containing , can continually renew their organs. Yet how does MONOPTEROS convey this message to the lucky cell? Dutch researcher Dolf Weijers has solved this puzzle.

Weijers and his German colleagues discovered that MONOPTEROS sends out several messengers. It was already known that MONOPTEROS used the hormone auxin, yet that is not enough to get through to its neighbour. The transcription factor therefore activates the gene TMO7 and subsequently the TMO7 protein is sent to the neighbouring cell. This is the first time that researchers have found this form of communication a plant embryo.

Up until now, MONOPTEROS only seemed to deploy signalling molecules to communicate with neighbouring cells. The combination of the two signals possibly ensures that the cell knows it is a precursor of the root meristem and not, for example, leaves.

In the model plant , the team of scientists investigated which of the 25,000 plus genes are activated by the transcription factor MONOPTEROS. By marking the TMO7 protein in the plant embryos and studying the consequences of its presence or absence, the researchers could identify the role of the TMO7 gene.

Explore further: The origin of the language of life

More information: MONOPTEROS controls embryonic root initiation by regulating a mobile transcription factor, Schlereth, A.S., Möller, B., Liu, W., Flipse, J., Kientz, M., Rademacher, E.H., Schmid, M., Jürgens, G. and Weijers, D. (2010) . Nature, doi:10.1038/nature08836

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Signal proteins for plant stem cells discovered

Mar 11, 2010

Wageningen University (The Netherlands) biochemist Dolf Weijers and his German colleagues have discovered how stem cells in a plant embryo are formed. The cells communicate with one another via the transportation of a protein, ...

How plants put down roots

Mar 15, 2010

In the beginning is the fertilized egg cell. Following numerous cell divisions, it then develops into a complex organism with different organs and tissues. The largely unexplained process whereby the cells ...

Root or shoot? EAR calls the shots

Feb 07, 2008

Controlled by a tightly regulated choreography that determines what should go up and what should go down, plants develop along a polar axis with a root on one end and a shoot on the other.

Scientists unveil mechanism for 'up and down' in plants

Oct 28, 2008

VIB researchers at Ghent University, Belgium, discovered how the transport of an important plant hormone is organized in a way that the plant knows in which direction its roots and leaves have to grow. They discovered how ...

Scientists find stem cell switch

Jul 26, 2007

Scientists have discovered how plant stem cells in roots detect soil structure and whether it is favourable for growth.

Hormone clue to root growth

Jul 06, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- Plant roots provide the crops we eat with water, nutrients and anchorage. Understanding how roots grow and how hormones control that growth is crucial to improving crop yields, which will be necessary to ...

Recommended for you

The origin of the language of life

Dec 19, 2014

The genetic code is the universal language of life. It describes how information is encoded in the genetic material and is the same for all organisms from simple bacteria to animals to humans. However, the ...

Quest to unravel mysteries of our gene network

Dec 18, 2014

There are roughly 27,000 genes in the human body, all but a relative few of them connected through an intricate and complex network that plays a dominant role in shaping our physiological structure and functions.

EU court clears stem cell patenting

Dec 18, 2014

A human egg used to produce stem cells but unable to develop into a viable embryo can be patented, the European Court of Justice ruled on Thursday.

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.