A Mutually Inhibitory Interaction between Auxin and Cytokinin Specifies Vascular Pattern in Roots

Anthony Bishopp*, Hanna Help*, Sedeer El-Showk, Dolf Weijers, Ben Scheres, Jiří Friml, Eva Benková, Ari Pekka Mähönen & Ykä Helariutta


Whereas the majority of animals develop toward a predetermined body plan, plants show iterative growth and continually produce new organs and structures from actively dividing meristems. This raises an intriguing question: How are these newly developed organs patterned? In Arabidopsis embryos, radial symmetry is broken by the bisymmetric specification of the cotyledons in the apical domain. Subsequently, this bisymmetry is propagated to the root promeristem.


Here we present a mutually inhibitory feedback loop between auxin and cytokinin that sets distinct boundaries of hormonal output. Cytokinins promote the bisymmetric distribution of the PIN-FORMED (PIN) auxin efflux proteins, which channel auxin toward a central domain. High auxin promotes transcription of the cytokinin signaling inhibitor AHP6, which closes the interaction loop. This bisymmetric auxin response domain specifies the differentiation of protoxylem in a bisymmetric pattern. In embryonic roots, cytokinin is required to translate a bisymmetric auxin response in the cotyledons to a bisymmetric vascular pattern in the root promeristem.


Our results present an interactive feedback loop between hormonal signaling and transport by which small biases in hormonal input are propagated into distinct signaling domains to specify the vascular pattern in the root meristem. It is an intriguing possibility that such a mechanism could transform radial patterns and allow continuous vascular connections between other newly emerging organs.

Current Biology 21 (11), 917-926