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Origin of root offshoots revealed
Date:10/23/2008

root, and several of them will induce the formation of an offshoot. These 'root-founder' cells undergo an asymmetric cell division. In contrast to the usual cell division, which gives rise to two identical cells, asymmetric cell division produces two different cells: a stem cell that is identical to the original cell, and a cell that is ready to become a specialized cell in this case, a secondary root cell.

The decisive signal

With the aid of the mouse-ear cress (Arabidopsis thaliana), a frequently used model plant, Ive De Smet and Valya Vassileva in Tom Beeckman's group have been studying how a plant determines which cells will trigger offshoots. To do this, the VIB researchers in Ghent have employed a special technology that makes it possible to make synchronous offshoots develop at different moments. This allowed them to isolate the cells that induce the formation of offshoots. They found out which genes are active in these cells and compared them with the genes that are crucial to normal cell division. In this way, the researchers identified a specific set of genes that control asymmetric cell division and send the signal for the formation of offshoots.

ACR4: control over asymmetric division

The researchers then examined one of these genes more closely. The ACR4 gene contains the DNA code for a receptor, a protein that is often located on the exterior of a cell to pick up signals from the outside and transmit them to the controlling mechanisms within the cell. When the researchers disrupted the function of ACR4 in plant cells, the precisely orchestrated asymmetric cell division was also disturbed. From this finding, De Smet and Vassileva inferred that ACR4 plays a key role in the creation of offshoots. Because the protein has a receptor function, triggering the formation of offshoots depends on its reaction to signals from the environment.

Desired or undesired

With this research, the
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Contact: Sooike Stoops
sooike.stoops@vib.be
329-244-6611
VIB (the Flanders Institute for Biotechnology)
Source:Eurekalert

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