Background: The control of vascular tissue development in plants is influenced by diverse hormonal signals, but their interactions during this process are not well understood. Wild-type sterol profiles are essential for growth, tissue patterning and signalling processes in plant development, and are required for regulated vascular patterning.
Methodology/principal findings: Here we investigate the roles of sterols in vascular tissue development, through an analysis of the Arabidopsis mutants hydra1 and fackel/hydra2, which are defective in the enzymes sterol isomerase and sterol C-14 reductase respectively. We show that defective vascular patterning in the shoot is associated with ectopic cell divisions. Expression of the auxin-regulated AtHB8 homeobox gene is disrupted in mutant embryos and seedlings, associated with variably incomplete vascular strand formation and duplication of the longitudinal axis. Misexpression of the auxin reporter proIAA2ratioGUS and mislocalization of PIN proteins occurs in the mutants. Introduction of the ethylene-insensitive ein2 mutation partially rescues defective cell division, localization of PIN proteins, and vascular strand development.
Conclusions: The results support a model in which sterols are required for correct auxin and ethylene crosstalk to regulate PIN localization, auxin distribution and AtHB8 expression, necessary for correct vascular development.