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J Exp Bot. 2009;60(13):3637-43. doi: 10.1093/jxb/erp232. Epub 2009 Jul 27.

Lateral root emergence: a difficult birth.

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  • 1Plant Sciences Division, School of Biosciences, University of Nottingham, Loughborough, UK.


Lateral root initiation takes place deep within the parental root, requiring new primordia to break through the overlying tissues before they emerge into the soil. Lateral root emergence has been well described at the cellular level but, until recently, the molecular mechanisms involved were unclear. Scientists in the 19th and 20th centuries hypothesized that the cell wall of the overlying tissues was modified by enzymes released by cells within the primordium. Recent studies in the model plant Arabidopsis thaliana revealed the existence of a complex transcellular signalling network regulated by auxin that controls cell wall remodelling in cells overlying lateral root primordia. In the first part of this review, early observations on the cell biology of lateral root formation and emergence are summarized, and in the following two sections recent observations in Arabidopsis that led to the identification of the molecular mechanism regulating lateral root emergence are described.

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