Regulation of tissue-specific expression of SPATULA, a bHLH gene involved in carpel development, seedling germination, and lateral organ growth in Arabidopsis

J Exp Bot. 2010 Mar;61(5):1495-508. doi: 10.1093/jxb/erq015. Epub 2010 Feb 22.


SPATULA is a bHLH transcription factor that promotes growth of tissues arising from the carpel margins, including the septum and transmitting tract. It is also involved in repressing germination of newly harvested seeds, and in inhibiting cotyledon, leaf, and petal expansion. Using a reporter gene construct, its expression profile was fully defined. Consistent with its known functions, SPT was expressed in developing carpel margin tissues, and in the hypocotyls and cotyledons of germinating seedlings, and in developing leaves and petals. It was also strongly expressed in tissues where no functions have been identified to date, including the dehiscence zone of fruits, developing anthers, embryos, and in the epidermal initials and new stele of root tips. The promoter region of SPT was dissected by truncation and deletion, and two main regions occupied by tissue-specific enhancers were identified. These were correlated with eight regions conserved between promoter regions of Arabidopsis, Brassica oleracea, and Brassica rapa. When transformed into Arabidopsis, the B. oleracea promoter drove expression in reproductive tissues mostly comparable to the equivalent Arabidopsis promoter. There is genetic evidence that SPT function in the gynoecium is associated with the perception of auxin. However, site-directed mutagenesis of three putative auxin-response elements had no detectable effect on SPT expression patterns. Even so, disruption of a putative E-box variant adjacent to one of these resulted in a loss of valve dehiscence zone expression. This expression was also specifically lost in mutants of another bHLH gene INDEHISCENT, indicating that IND may directly regulate SPT expression through this variant E-box.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Arabidopsis / genetics
  • Arabidopsis / growth & development*
  • Arabidopsis / metabolism*
  • Arabidopsis Proteins / genetics
  • Arabidopsis Proteins / metabolism
  • Basic Helix-Loop-Helix Transcription Factors / genetics
  • Basic Helix-Loop-Helix Transcription Factors / metabolism
  • Flowers / genetics
  • Flowers / growth & development
  • Flowers / metabolism
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Plant / genetics
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Plant / physiology
  • Germination / genetics
  • Germination / physiology*
  • Mutagenesis, Site-Directed
  • Seedlings / genetics
  • Seedlings / growth & development*
  • Seedlings / metabolism*


  • Arabidopsis Proteins
  • Basic Helix-Loop-Helix Transcription Factors
  • INDEHISCENT protein, Arabidopsis
  • SPT protein, Arabidopsis