Discovery of the switch that determines the “job choice” of cells

April 22, 2020

We humans make various job choices in our life within society. Similarly, the cells that make up our body "make job choices" to play their roles and fulfill their functions. The vascular bundles in plants are responsible for the transport of substances and consist of various kinds of cells. The mechanism of the choices by the cells to become one of these diverse vascular cells, or “get a job,” was not yet known.

The group of researchers from Kobe University, the University of Tokyo, the RIKEN Centre for Sustainable Resource Science, and Cambridge University have improved a culture system "VISUAL" (Vascular cell Induction Culture System Using Arabidopsis Leaves), which produces vascular cells from leaf cells, and successfully induced phloem companion cells for the first time. This improved culture system was named "VISUAL-CC." By using the “VISUAL-CC,” the group revealed that the protein phosphorylation enzyme called GSK3 acts as a switch to regulate the fate of phloem cells and phloem companion cells, determining the ratio of the two types of cells.

In our society, the balance among the numbers of workers in different jobs is extremely important. In plants, GSK3 works as the "fate switch." The study found that GSK3 controls the numerical balance among the several types of cells in the vascular bundle. The discovery is expected to make it possible to freely produce the components making up vascular bundles.

Original article
Communications Biology doi:10.1038/s42003-020-0907-3
T. Tamaki, S. Oya, M. Naito, Y. Ozawa, T. Furuya, M. Saito, M. Sato, M. Wakazaki, K. Toyooka, H. Fukuda, Y. Helariutta, Y. Kondo,
"VISUAL-CC system uncovers the role of GSK3 as an orchestrator of vascular cell type ratio in plants".
Kiminori Toyooka
Senior Technical Scientist
Mass Spectrometry and Microscopy Unit