Arabidopsis cytokinin receptor mutants reveal functions in shoot growth, leaf senescence, seed size, germination, root development, and cytokinin metabolism

Plant Cell. 2006 Jan;18(1):40-54. doi: 10.1105/tpc.105.037796. Epub 2005 Dec 16.


We used loss-of-function mutants to study three Arabidopsis thaliana sensor histidine kinases, AHK2, AHK3, and CRE1/AHK4, known to be cytokinin receptors. Mutant seeds had more rapid germination, reduced requirement for light, and decreased far-red light sensitivity, unraveling cytokinin functions in seed germination control. Triple mutant seeds were more than twice as large as wild-type seeds. Genetic analysis indicated a cytokinin-dependent endospermal and/or maternal control of embryo size. Unchanged red light sensitivity of mutant hypocotyl elongation suggests that previously reported modulation of red light signaling by A-type response regulators may not depend on cytokinin. Combined loss of AHK2 and AHK3 led to the most prominent changes during vegetative development. Leaves of ahk2 ahk3 mutants formed fewer cells, had reduced chlorophyll content, and lacked the cytokinin-dependent inhibition of dark-induced chlorophyll loss, indicating a prominent role of AHK2 and, particularly, AHK3 in the control of leaf development. ahk2 ahk3 double mutants developed a strongly enhanced root system through faster growth of the primary root and, more importantly, increased branching. This result supports a negative regulatory role for cytokinin in root growth regulation. Increased cytokinin content of receptor mutants indicates a homeostatic control of steady state cytokinin levels through signaling. Together, the analyses reveal partially redundant functions of the cytokinin receptors and prominent roles for the AHK2/AHK3 receptor combination in quantitative control of organ growth in plants, with opposite regulatory functions in roots and shoots.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Alleles
  • Arabidopsis Proteins / genetics
  • Arabidopsis Proteins / metabolism*
  • Arabidopsis* / anatomy & histology
  • Arabidopsis* / genetics
  • Arabidopsis* / growth & development
  • Arabidopsis* / physiology
  • Chlorophyll / metabolism
  • Cytokinins / metabolism*
  • DNA, Bacterial / genetics
  • DNA, Bacterial / metabolism
  • Germination / physiology*
  • Histidine Kinase
  • Light
  • Morphogenesis / physiology
  • Mutation
  • Phenotype
  • Plant Leaves / physiology
  • Plant Roots / anatomy & histology
  • Plant Roots / growth & development
  • Protein Kinases / genetics
  • Protein Kinases / metabolism*
  • Receptors, Cell Surface / genetics
  • Receptors, Cell Surface / metabolism*
  • Seeds* / cytology
  • Seeds* / physiology
  • Signal Transduction / physiology


  • Arabidopsis Proteins
  • Cytokinins
  • DNA, Bacterial
  • Receptors, Cell Surface
  • T-DNA
  • Chlorophyll
  • Protein Kinases
  • Histidine Kinase
  • AHK2 protein, Arabidopsis
  • AHK3 protein, Arabidopsis
  • WOL protein, Arabidopsis