The ASH1-RELATED3 SET-Domain Protein Controls Cell Division Competence of the Meristem and the Quiescent Center of the Arabidopsis Primary Root

Robert Kumpf, Tage Thorstensen, Mohummad Aminur Rahman, Jefri Heyman, H. Zeynep Nenseth, Tim Lammens, Ullrich Herrmann, Ranjan Swarup, Silje Veie Veiseth, Gitika Emberland, Malcolm J. Bennett, Lieven De Veylder & Reidunn B. Aalen

The stem cell niche of the Arabidopsis (Arabidopsis thaliana) primary root apical meristem is composed of the quiescent (or organizing) center surrounded by stem (initial) cells for the different tissues. Initial cells generate a population of transit-amplifying cells that undergo a limited number of cell divisions before elongating and differentiating. It is unclear whether these divisions occur stochastically or in an orderly manner. Using the thymidine analog 5-ethynyl-2′-deoxyuridine to monitor DNA replication of cells of Arabidopsis root meristems, we identified a pattern of two, four, and eight neighboring cells with synchronized replication along the cortical, epidermal, and endodermal cell files, suggested to be daughters, granddaughters, and great-granddaughters of the direct progeny of each stem cell. Markers of mitosis and cytokinesis were not present in the region closest to the transition zone where the cells start to elongate, suggesting that great-granddaughter cells switch synchronously from the mitotic cell cycle to endoreduplication. Mutations in the stem cell niche-expressed ASH1-RELATED3 (ASHR3) gene, encoding a SET-domain protein conferring histone H3 lysine-36 methylation, disrupted this pattern of coordinated DNA replication and cell division and increased the cell division rate in the quiescent center. E2Fa/E2Fb transcription factors controlling the G1-to-S-phase transition regulate ASHR3 expression and bind to the ASHR3 promoter, substantiating a role for ASHR3 in cell division control. The reduced length of the root apical meristem and primary root of the mutant ashr3-1 indicate that synchronization of replication and cell divisions is required for normal root growth and development.

Plant Physiology 166 (2), 632-643

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