In their study on the effect of auxin, Steffen Lau, Ive De Smet, Martina Kolb and Gerd Jrgens from the Department of Cell Biology and Hans Meinhardt, all from the Max Planck Institute for Developmental Biology in Tbingen, and some also affiliated with the University of Tbingen, initially focused on a simplified system. Instead of carrying out their experiments with thale cress (Arabidopsis thaliana) embryos, they worked with thale cress protoplasts: living cells without a cell wall that offer a less complex environment. Test conditions using protoplasts can be varied rather conveniently, and it is relatively easy to measure gene activity in these cells. Using this system, the scientists tested the effects of a gene-activating factor called MONOPTEROS and that of its inhibitor BODENLOS. This and subsequent experiments showed that MONOPTEROS promotes both its own production and that of its inhibitor BODENLOS. They form a system comprising two linked feedback loops. The system is controlled by auxin, which promotes the breakdown of the inhibitor.
Based on these results, the scientists also carried out computer simulations in which they reconstructed the regulatory network. "Everything points to the fact that auxin triggers a switch in the system," says Steffen Lau. And this is how it works: when the concentration of auxin increases, breakdown of the inhibitor BODENLOS also increases. As a result, MONOPTEROS is less strongly blocked. And once a certain auxin concentration is reached, the MONOPTEROS-BODENLOS system is boosted to a higher level of activity. "As long as the auxin concentration does not fall below a certain level, the activated system does not fall back to the initial level, even if most of the auxin is transported away," explains the scientist.
This regulatory mechanism in the embryonic development of plants had not previously been described, and displays similarities to a signalli
|Contact: Gerd Juergens|