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PLoS Genet. 2017 Apr 7;13(4):e1006726. doi: 10.1371/journal.pgen.1006726. eCollection 2017 Apr.

The bHLH transcription factor SPATULA enables cytokinin signaling, and both activate auxin biosynthesis and transport genes at the medial domain of the gynoecium.

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Unidad de Genómica Avanzada (LANGEBIO), Centro de Investigación y de Estudios Avanzados del Instituto Politécnico Nacional (CINVESTAV-IPN), Irapuato, Guanajuato, México.
Instituto de Biología Molecular y Celular de Plantas, CSIC-UPV Universidad Politécnica de Valencia, Valencia, Spain.
Division of Biological Sciences, University of California San Diego, La Jolla, California, United States of America.
Dipartimento di Bioscienze, Università degli Studi di Milano, Milan, Italy.
Biology Department, Adelphi University, Garden City, New York, United States of America.
Departamento de Biotecnología y Bioquímica, CINVESTAV-IPN, Irapuato, Guanajuato, México.


Fruits and seeds are the major food source on earth. Both derive from the gynoecium and, therefore, it is crucial to understand the mechanisms that guide the development of this organ of angiosperm species. In Arabidopsis, the gynoecium is composed of two congenitally fused carpels, where two domains: medial and lateral, can be distinguished. The medial domain includes the carpel margin meristem (CMM) that is key for the production of the internal tissues involved in fertilization, such as septum, ovules, and transmitting tract. Interestingly, the medial domain shows a high cytokinin signaling output, in contrast to the lateral domain, where it is hardly detected. While it is known that cytokinin provides meristematic properties, understanding on the mechanisms that underlie the cytokinin signaling pattern in the young gynoecium is lacking. Moreover, in other tissues, the cytokinin pathway is often connected to the auxin pathway, but we also lack knowledge about these connections in the young gynoecium. Our results reveal that cytokinin signaling, that can provide meristematic properties required for CMM activity and growth, is enabled by the transcription factor SPATULA (SPT) in the medial domain. Meanwhile, cytokinin signaling is confined to the medial domain by the cytokinin response repressor ARABIDOPSIS HISTIDINE PHOSPHOTRANSFERASE 6 (AHP6), and perhaps by ARR16 (a type-A ARR) as well, both present in the lateral domains (presumptive valves) of the developing gynoecia. Moreover, SPT and cytokinin, probably together, promote the expression of the auxin biosynthetic gene TRYPTOPHAN AMINOTRANSFERASE OF ARABIDOPSIS 1 (TAA1) and the gene encoding the auxin efflux transporter PIN-FORMED 3 (PIN3), likely creating auxin drainage important for gynoecium growth. This study provides novel insights in the spatiotemporal determination of the cytokinin signaling pattern and its connection to the auxin pathway in the young gynoecium.

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