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J Exp Bot. 2009;60(6):1759-71. doi: 10.1093/jxb/erp046. Epub 2009 Mar 19.

Expression of the SOMATIC EMBRYOGENESIS RECEPTOR-LIKE KINASE1 (SERK1) gene is associated with developmental change in the life cycle of the model legume Medicago truncatula.

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Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Integrative Legume Research, School of Environmental and Life Sciences, University of Newcastle, Callaghan, NSW 2308, Australia.


SOMATIC EMBRYOGENESIS RECEPTOR-LIKE KINASE (SERK) genes have been demonstrated to play a role in somatic embryogenesis in several plant species. As more is learnt about these genes, the view of their role in plant development has broadened. The Medicago truncatula MtSERK1 gene has been associated with somatic embryogenesis and in vitro root formation. In order to study the role of MtSERK1 in development further, the MtSERK1 promoter sequence has been isolated and cloned into a promoter-GUS analysis vector. SERK1 promoter-driven GUS expression was studied in A. tumefaciens-transformed cultures and regenerated plants, in A. rhizogenes-transformed root clones, and in nodulation. In embryogenic cultures, GUS staining is detected after 2 d of culture at the edge of the explant and around vascular tissue. Expression at the explant edge intensifies over subsequent days and then is lost from the edge as callus formation moves inward. MtSERK1 expression appears to be associated with new callus formation. When somatic embryos form, GUS staining occurs throughout embryo development. Zygotic embryos show expression until the heart stage. The in planta studies reveal a number of interesting expression patterns. There appear to be three types. (i) Expression associated with the primary meristems of the root and shoot and the newly formed meristems of the lateral roots and nodule. (ii) Expression at the junction between one type of tissue or organ and another. (iii) Expression associated with the vascular tissue procambial cells. The data led us to conclude that MtSERK1 expression is associated with developmental change, possibly reflecting cellular reprogramming.

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