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Ann Bot. 2008 Feb;101(3):319-40. Epub 2007 Oct 21.

Determinate root growth and meristem maintenance in angiosperms.

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  • 1Departamento de Biología Molecular de Plantas, Instituto de Biotecnología, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, Apartado Postal 510-3, 62250, Cuernavaca, Morelos, Mexico.



The difference between indeterminate and determinate growth in plants consists of the presence or absence of an active meristem in the fully developed organ. Determinate root growth implies that the root apical meristem (RAM) becomes exhausted. As a consequence, all cells in the root tip differentiate. This type of growth is widely found in roots of many angiosperm taxa and might have evolved as a developmental adaptation to water deficit (in desert Cactaceae), or low mineral content in the soil (proteoid roots in various taxa).


This review considers the mechanisms of determinate root growth to better understand how the RAM is maintained, how it functions, and the cellular and genetic bases of these processes. The role of the quiescent centre in RAM maintenance and exhaustion will be analysed. During root ageing, the RAM becomes smaller and its organization changes; however, it remains unknown whether every root is truly determinate in the sense that its RAM becomes exhausted before senescence. We define two types of determinate growth: constitutive where determinacy is a natural part of root development; and non-constitutive where determinacy is induced usually by an environmental factor. Determinate root growth is proposed to include two phases: the indeterminate growth phase, when the RAM continuously produces new cells; and the termination growth phase, when cell production gradually decreases and eventually ceases. Finally, new concepts regarding stem cells and a stem cell niche are discussed to help comprehend how the meristem is maintained in a broad taxonomic context.

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