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Development. 2003 Aug;130(16):3735-45.

Modes of intercellular transcription factor movement in the Arabidopsis apex.

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  • 1Plant Biology Laboratory, The Salk Institute for Biological Studies, La Jolla, CA 92037, USA.


A recent and intriguing discovery in plant biology has been that some transcription factors can move between cells. In Arabidopsis thaliana, the floral identity protein LEAFY has strong non-autonomous effects when expressed in the epidermis, mediated by its movement into underlying tissue layers. By contrast, a structurally unrelated floral identity protein, APETALA1, has only limited non-autonomous effects. Using GFP fusions to monitor protein movement in the shoot apical meristem and in floral primordia of Arabidopsis, we found a strong correlation between cytoplasmic localization of proteins and their ability to move to adjacent cells. The graded distribution of several GFP fusions with their highest levels in the cells where they are produced is compatible with the notion that this movement is driven by diffusion. We also present evidence that protein movement is more restricted laterally within layers than it is from L1 into underlying layers of the Arabidopsis apex. Based on these observations, we propose that intercellular movement of transcription factors can occur in a non-targeted fashion as a result of simple diffusion. This hypothesis raises the possibility that diffusion is the default state for many macromolecules in the Arabidopsis apex, unless they are specifically retained.

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