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Plant Mol Biol. 2004 Sep;56(2):309-23.

Root cap specific expression of an endo-beta-1,4-D-glucanase (cellulase): a new marker to study root development in Arabidopsis.

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Department of Cell Biology and Molecular Genetics, University of Maryland at College Park, College Park, MD 20742, USA.


The sloughing of root cap cells from the root tip is important because it assists the growing root in penetrating the soil. Using a promoter-reporter (GUS) and RT-PCR analysis, we identified an endo-beta-1,4-glucanase (AtCel5) of Arabidopsis thaliana that is expressed exclusively in root cap cells of both primary and secondary roots. Expression is inhibited by high concentrations of IAA, both exogenous and internal, as well as by ABA. AtCel5 expression begins once the mature tissue pattern is established and continues for 3 weeks. GUS staining is observed in both root cap cells that are still attached and cells that have already been shed. Using AtCel5-GUS as a marker, we observed that the root cap cells begin to separate at the sides of the tip while the cells of the central region of the tip separate last. Separation involves sequential tiers of intact cells that separate from the periphery of the root tip. A homozygous T-DNA insertion mutant that does not express AtCel5 forms the root cap and sheds root cap cells but sloughing is less efficient compared to wild type. The reduction in sloughing in the mutant does not affect the overall growth performance of the plant in loose media. The modest effect of abolishing AtCel5 expression suggests that there are multiple redundant genes regulating the process of sloughing of the root cap, including AtCel3/At1g71380, the paralog of the AtCel5 gene that is also expressed in the root cap cells. Thus, these two endo-1,4-beta-D-glucanases may have a role in the sloughing of border cells from the root tip. We propose that AtCel5, provides a new molecular marker to further analyze the process of root cap cell separation and a root cap specific promoter for targeting to the environment genes with beneficial properties for plant growth.

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