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Planta. 2009 Sep;230(4):827-40. doi: 10.1007/s00425-009-0988-1. Epub 2009 Jul 29.

The association of homeobox gene expression with stem cell formation and morphogenesis in cultured Medicago truncatula.

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  • 1School of Environmental and Life Sciences, Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Integrative Legume Research, The University of Newcastle, Callaghan, NSW 2308, Australia.


Somatic embryogenesis (SE) is induced in vitro in Medicago truncatula 2HA by auxin and cytokinin but rarely in wild type Jemalong. The putative WUSCHEL (MtWUS), CLAVATA3 (MtCLV3) and the WUSCHEL-related homeobox gene WOX5 (MtWOX5) were investigated in M. truncatula (Mt) and identified by the similarity to Arabidopsis WUS, CLV3 and WOX5 in amino acid sequence, phylogeny and in planta and in vitro expression patterns. MtWUS was induced throughout embryogenic cultures by cytokinin after 24-48 h and maximum expression occurred after 1 week, which coincides with the induction of totipotent stem cells. During this period there was no MtCLV3 expression to suppress MtWUS. MtWUS expression, as illustrated by promoter-GUS studies, subsequently localised to the embryo, and there was then the onset of MtCLV3 expression. This suggests that the expression of the putative MtCLV3 coincides with the WUS-CLAVATA feedback loop becoming operational. RNAi studies showed that MtWUS expression is essential for callus and somatic embryo production. Based on the presence of MtWUS promoter binding sites, MtWUS may be required for the induction of MtSERF1, postulated to have a key role in the signalling required for SE induced in 2HA. MtWOX5 expressed in auxin-induced root primordia and root meristems and appears to be involved in pluripotent stem cell induction. The evidence is discussed that the homeobox genes MtWUS and MtWOX5 are "hijacked" for stem cell induction, which is key to somatic embryo and de novo root induction. In relation to SE, a role for WUS in the signalling involved in induction is discussed.

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