Life behind the wall: sensing mechanical cues in plants
Plant shoot organs such as stems, leaves and flowers are derived from specialized groups of stem cells organized at the shoot apical meristem (SAM). Organogenesis involves two major processes, namely cell proliferation and differentiation, whereby the former contributes to increasing the cell number and the latter involves substantial increases in cell volume through cell expansion. Co-ordination between the above processes in time and space is essential for proper organogenesis. To identify regulatory factors involved in proper organogenesis, heavy-ion beam-irradiated de-etiolated (det) 3-1 seeds have been used to identify striking phenotypes in the A#26-2; det3-1 mutant. In addition to the stunted plant stature mimicking det3-1, the A#26-2; det3-1 mutant exhibited stem thickening, increased floral organ number and a fruit shape reminiscent of clavata (clv) mutants. DNA sequencing analysis demonstrated that A#26-2; det3-1 harbors a mutation in the CLV3 gene. Importantly, A#26-2; det3-1 displayed cracks that randomly occurred on the main stem with a frequency of approximately 50%. Furthermore, the double mutants clv3-8 det3-1, clv1-4 det3-1 and clv2-1 det3-1 consistently showed stem cracks with frequencies of approximately 97, 38 and 35%, respectively. Cross-sections of stems further revealed an increase in vascular bundle number, cell number and size in the pith of clv3-8 det3-1 compared with det3-1. These findings suggest that the stem inner volume increase due to clv mutations exerts an outward mechanical stress; that in a det3-1 background (defective in cell expansion) resulted in cracking of the outermost layer of epidermal cells.