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Plant Cell Physiol. 2008 Jun;49(6):934-43. doi: 10.1093/pcp/pcn067. Epub 2008 May 1.

The bHLH protein, MUTE, controls differentiation of stomata and the hydathode pore in Arabidopsis.

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  • 1Department of Biology, University of Washington, Seattle, WA 98195, USA.


Stomata are turgor-driven epidermal valves on the surface of plants that allow for efficient gas and water exchange between the plant and its environment. The Arabidopsis thaliana basic helix-loop-helix (bHLH) protein, MUTE, is a master regulator of stomatal differentiation where it is required for progression through the stomatal lineage and the differentiation of stomata. The genetic control of stomatal spacing across the epidermal surface is variable in different organs. For instance, a distinct suite of genes from those in leaves regulates stomatal patterning in hypocotyls. Here we report that regardless of organ type, MUTE controls downstream events directing stomatal differentiation, specifically the transition from meristemoid to guard mother cell. Ectopic MUTE expression is sufficient to over-ride cell fate specification in cell types that do not normally differentiate stomata. Furthermore, MUTE is required for the production of the structure evolutionarily related to stomata, the hydathode pore. Consistently, MUTE displays expression at the tip of cotyledons and leaves, thus co-localizing with the auxin maxima. However, MUTE itself was not regulated by the auxin, and the absence of hydathode pores in mute did not affect the auxin maxima. Surprisingly, our analysis revealed that the requirement for MUTE could be partially circumvented under conditions of compromised inhibitory signaling.

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