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Mol Plant. 2008 Mar;1(2):359-67. doi: 10.1093/mp/ssm027. Epub 2008 Feb 8.

The root cap determines ethylene-dependent growth and development in maize roots.

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  • 1Botanisches Institut, Universität zu Köln, Gyrhofstr. 15, D-50931 Köln, Germany.


Besides providing protection against mechanical damage to the root tip, the root cap is involved in the perception and processing of diverse external and internal stimuli resulting in altered growth and development. The transduction of these stimuli includes hormonal signaling pathways such as those of auxin, ethylene and cytokinin. Here, we show that the root cap is essential for the ethylene-induced regulation of elongation growth and root hair formation in maize. Exogenously applied ethylene is no longer able to inhibit elongation growth when the root cap has been surgically removed prior to hormone treatment. Reconstitution of the cap positively correlates with the developing capacity of the roots to respond to ethylene again. In contrast, the removal of the root cap does not per se affect growth inhibition controlled by auxin and cytokinin. Furthermore, our semi-quantitative RT-PCR results support earlier findings that the maize root cap is a site of high gene expression activity with respect to sensing and responding to hormones such as ethylene. From these data, we propose a novel function of the root cap which is the establishment of competence to respond to ethylene in the distal zones of the root.

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