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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2006 Jan 3;103(1):236-41. Epub 2005 Dec 21.

A gradient of auxin and auxin-dependent transcription precedes tropic growth responses.

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  • 1Division of Biological Sciences and Department of Statistics, University of Missouri, Columbia, MO 65211, USA.


Plants, although sessile, can reorient growth axes in response to changing environmental conditions. Phototropism and gravitropism represent adaptive growth responses induced by changes in light direction and growth axis orientation relative to gravitational direction, respectively. The nearly 80-year-old Cholodny-Went theory [Went, F. W. & Thimann, K. V. (1937) Phytohormones (Macmillan, New York)] predicts that formation of a gradient of the plant morphogen auxin is central to the establishment of tropic curvature. Loss of tropic responses in seedling stems of Arabidopsis thaliana mutants lacking the auxin-regulated transcriptional activator NPH4/ARF7 has further suggested that a gradient of gene expression represents an essential output from the auxin gradient. Yet the molecular identities of such output components, which are likely to encode proteins directly involved in growth control, have remained elusive. Here we report the discovery of a suite of tropic stimulus-induced genes in Brassica oleracea that are responsive to an auxin gradient and exhibit morphologically graded expression concomitant with, or before, observable curvature responses. These results provide compelling molecular support for the Cholodny-Went theory and suggest that morphologically graded transcription represents an important mechanism for interpreting tropically stimulated gradients of auxin. Intriguingly, two of the tropic stimulus-induced genes, EXPA1 and EXPA8, encode enzymes involved in cell wall extension, a response prerequisite for differential growth leading to curvatures, and are up-regulated before curvature in the flank that will elongate. This observation suggests that morphologically graded transcription likely leads to the graded expression of proteins whose activities can directly regulate the establishment and modulation of tropic curvatures.

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