A key that has enabled plants to thrive on Earth

May 19, 2021

Proteins that govern stemness for lateral root formation are identified

A joint study group, including Osaka University, the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology, the RIKEN CSRS, and Saitama University, identified key genes that govern the competence of pericycle cells to initiate plants’ lateral root formation for the first time in the world.

Plants have been thriving on the earth as they gained the competence of lateral root formation during evolution that enabled them to set their roots widely. The lateral root primordium is produced by division of pericycle cells in roots induced with a plant hormone, auxin. Although the mechanism of lateral root formation has been actively studied, little has done to clarify the molecular basis of the stem cell-like function of pericycle cells to form lateral roots.

This study found that the complex of transcription factors comprised of two types of proteins, PFA and PFB, governs the competence of pericycle cells to form lateral root primordium in Arabidopsis thaliana. In addition, PFA/PFB was found to be essential to this process because only pericycle cells start to divide when auxin, a plant hormone that plays a key role to form lateral roots, is given to the plant’s roots.

It might be possible to develop techniques to optimize crops’ root systems for the environment by regulating the PFA/PFB system. Also, since the pericycle cells have strong totipotency, cloning or genetic engineering might become possible for plants that have not been able to do so by controlling totipotency of plants.


Original article
Nature Plants doi:10.1038/s41477-021-00919-9
Y. Zhang, N. Mitsuda, T. Yoshizumi, Y. Horii, Y. Oshima, M. Ohme-Takagi, M. Matsui, T. Kakimoto,
"Two types of bHLH transcription factors determine the competence of pericycle for lateral root initiation".

Minami Matsui
Group Director
Synthetic Genomics Research Group