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Development. 2004 Feb;131(3):657-68. Epub 2004 Jan 7.

Expression dynamics of WOX genes mark cell fate decisions during early embryonic patterning in Arabidopsis thaliana.

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  • 1Institute of Biology III, University of Freiburg, Sch√§nzlestrasse 1, 79104 Freiburg, Germany.


During embryonic pattern formation, the main body axes are established and cells of different developmental fates are specified from a single-cell zygote. Despite the fundamental importance of this process, in plants, the underlying mechanisms are largely unknown. We show that expression dynamics of novel WOX (WUSCHEL related homeobox) gene family members reveal early embryonic patterning events in Arabidopsis. WOX2 and WOX8 are co-expressed in the egg cell and zygote and become confined to the apical and basal daughter cells of the zygote, respectively, by its asymmetric division. WOX2 not only marks apical descendants of the zygote, but is also functionally required for their correct development, suggesting that the asymmetric division of the plant zygote separates determinants of apical and basal cell fates. WOX9 expression is initiated in the basal daughter cell of the zygote and subsequently shifts into the descendants of the apical daughter apparently in response to signaling from the embryo proper. Expression of WOX5 shows that identity of the quiescent center is initiated very early in the hypophyseal cell, and highlights molecular and developmental similarities between the stem cell niches of root and shoot meristems. Together, our data suggest that during plant embryogenesis region-specific transcription programs are initiated very early in single precursor cells and that WOX genes play an important role in this process.

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