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Curr Biol. 2008 Dec 23;18(24):1943-8. doi: 10.1016/j.cub.2008.10.065.

Arabidopsis phyllotaxis is controlled by the methyl-esterification status of cell-wall pectins.

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Laboratoire de Biologie Cellulaire, Institut Jean-Pierre Bourgin, INRA Centre de Versailles-Grignon, Versailles, France.


Plant organs are produced from meristems in a characteristic pattern. This pattern, referred to as phyllotaxis, is thought to be generated by local gradients of an information molecule, auxin. Some studies propose a key role for the mechanical properties of the cell walls in the control of organ outgrowth. A major cell-wall component is the linear alpha-1-4-linked D-GalAp pectic polysaccharide homogalacturonan (HG), which plays a key role in cell-to-cell cohesion. HG is deposited in the cell wall in a highly (70%-80%) methyl-esterified form and is subsequently de-methyl-esterified by pectin methyl-esterases (PME, EC PME activity is itself regulated by endogenous PME inhibitor (PMEI) proteins. PME action modulates cell-wall-matrix properties and plays a role in the control of cell growth. Here, we show that the formation of flower primordia in the Arabidopsis shoot apical meristem is accompanied by the de-methyl-esterification of pectic polysaccharides in the cell walls. In addition, experimental perturbation of the methyl-esterification status of pectins within the meristem dramatically alters the phyllotactic pattern. These results demonstrate that regulated de-methyl-esterification of pectins is a key event in the outgrowth of primordia and possibly also in phyllotactic patterning.

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