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Hormone and Gene Feedback during Development and Regeneration in Arabidopsis thaliana


Gordon, Sean Patrick (2009) Hormone and Gene Feedback during Development and Regeneration in Arabidopsis thaliana. Dissertation (Ph.D.), California Institute of Technology. doi:10.7907/T3CR-TC54.


Higher plants maintain continuous development throughout their life by closely regulating the process of cell differentiation (Clark, 2001; Sablowski, 2007). In plants, the balance between undifferentiated and differentiated cell fate is managed within a stem cell niche termed the meristem. Cell differentiation in the meristem is in part controlled by genetic mechanisms. For example, mutations in CLAVATA (CLV) genes increase the number of undifferentiated cells within shoot and floral meristems leading to supernumerary organs (Clark, 2001). In contrast, mutations in genes of the homeodomain transcription factors WUSCHEL (WUS) and SHOOT-MERISTEMLESS (STM) lead to the absence of the shoot or floral meristem or its early termination through differentiation (Laux et al., 1996; Long et al., 1996).

Cell differentiation in the meristem is also controlled by hormonal cues, which interfaces with gene function. For example, cytokinin treatment leads to phenotypes resembling clv mutants (Lindsay et al., 2006). Furthermore, exogenous cytokinin treatment has been shown to rescue the stm mutant phenotype and WUS protein has been shown to repress transcription of genes that act in the negative feedback pathway of cytokinin signaling (Leibfried et al., 2005; Yanai et al., 2005). The plant hormone auxin also plays a role in regulating differentiation. Auxin is thought to stimulate the initiation, development and differentiation of cells specified into organs (Teale et al., 2006). Disruption of auxin transport leads to a reduction in organ initiation and differentiation (Okada et al., 1991).

In this thesis we investigate spatially regulated signaling and action of auxin and cytokinin which regulate patterning of gene expression and cell differentiation. To this end, we employed two model systems of shoot meristem initiation and development in the model plant Arabidopsis thaliana: shoot and floral meristem development and de novo shoot meristem initiation from tissue culture. Based on characterization of hormone signaling and patterning of gene expression during de novo shoot meristem initiation from tissue culture we propose a novel Turing-like model by which auxin and cytokinin interact to regulate patterning of cell differentiation. In this model, the activity of auxin, the activator of cell differentiation, is regulated by cytokinin, an inhibitor of cell differentiation. Computational models of these interactions lead to self organizing patterning of hormone response and cell differentiation as observed in experiments.

In our second investigation, we show that cytokinin signaling regulates the spatial patterning of the homeodomain transcription factor WUS within the shoot meristem. We demonstrate that WUS misregulation after cytokinin treatment is mediated by both CLAVATA-dependent and independent mechanisms leading to multiple feedback loops. We reveal the presence of a cytokinin perception and signaling gradient within the shoot meristem, which spatially influences size and position of the WUS domain.

Finally, we have begun to identify the molecular components required for cytokinin activation of WUS expression. Of the three characterized cytokinin receptors, only Arabidopsis Histidine Kinase 2 (AHK2) is required for WUS induction in the presence of cytokinin. In contrast, the AHK3 receptor is required for negative feedback on cytokinin signaling and thus WUS. These data reveal an unappreciated specificity in cytokinin signaling in regulating downstream targets which may be important for eliciting different cell behaviors depending on the threshold of signaling and the ratio of the three cytokinin receptors within a given cell.

Item Type:Thesis (Dissertation (Ph.D.))
Subject Keywords:Arabidopsis; auxin; cytokinin; development; fluorescence microscopy; genetics; hormone; meristem; regeneration; self organization; stem cell; stem cell niche
Degree Grantor:California Institute of Technology
Major Option:Biochemistry and Molecular Biophysics
Thesis Availability:Public (worldwide access)
Research Advisor(s):
  • Meyerowitz, Elliot M.
Thesis Committee:
  • Rothenberg, Ellen V. (chair)
  • Meyerowitz, Elliot M.
  • Elowitz, Michael B.
  • Sternberg, Paul W.
  • Deshaies, Raymond Joseph
Defense Date:29 April 2009
Record Number:CaltechETD:etd-05022009-103703
Persistent URL:
Gordon, Sean Patrick0000-0003-3431-5804
Default Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:1589
Deposited By: Imported from ETD-db
Deposited On:13 May 2009
Last Modified:26 Nov 2019 19:45

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