The Arabidopsis repressor of light signaling SPA1 acts in the phloem to regulate seedling de-etiolation, leaf expansion and flowering time

Development. 2011 May;138(9):1851-62. doi: 10.1242/dev.061036. Epub 2011 Mar 29.


Plants adjust their growth and development in response to the ambient light environment. These light responses involve systemic signals that coordinate differentiation of different tissues and organs. Here, we have investigated the function of the key repressor of photomorphogenesis SPA1 in different tissues of the plant by expressing GUS-SPA1 under the control of tissue-specific promoters in a spa mutant background. We show that SPA1 expression in the phloem vasculature is sufficient to rescue the spa1 mutant phenotype in dark-grown spa mutant seedlings. Expression of SPA1 in mesophyll, epidermis or root tissues of the seedling, by contrast, has no or only slight effects. In the leaf, SPA1 expression in both the phloem and the mesophyll is required for full complementation of the defect in leaf expansion. SPA1 in phloem and mesophyll tissues affected division and expansion of cells in the epidermal layer, indicating that SPA1 induces non-cell-autonomous responses also in the leaf. Photoperiodic flowering is exclusively controlled by SPA1 expression in the phloem, which is consistent with previous results showing that the direct substrate of the COP1/SPA complex, CONSTANS, also acts in the phloem. Taken together, our results highlight the importance of phloem vascular tissue in coordinating growth and development. Because the SPA1 protein itself is incapable of moving from cell to cell, we suggest that SPA1 regulates the activity of downstream component(s) of light signaling that subsequently act in a non-cell-autonomous manner. SPA1 action in the phloem may also result in mechanical stimuli that affect cell elongation and cell division in other tissues.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Arabidopsis Proteins / genetics
  • Arabidopsis Proteins / metabolism
  • Arabidopsis Proteins / physiology*
  • Arabidopsis* / embryology
  • Arabidopsis* / genetics
  • Cell Cycle Proteins / genetics
  • Cell Cycle Proteins / metabolism
  • Cell Cycle Proteins / physiology*
  • Flowering Tops / embryology
  • Flowering Tops / genetics*
  • Flowering Tops / metabolism
  • Light
  • Phloem / embryology*
  • Phloem / genetics*
  • Phloem / metabolism
  • Plant Leaves / embryology*
  • Plant Leaves / genetics
  • Plant Leaves / growth & development
  • Plant Leaves / metabolism
  • Plants, Genetically Modified
  • Repressor Proteins / genetics
  • Repressor Proteins / metabolism
  • Repressor Proteins / physiology
  • Seedlings / embryology*
  • Seedlings / genetics
  • Seedlings / metabolism
  • Seedlings / physiology
  • Seeds
  • Signal Transduction / genetics
  • Signal Transduction / physiology
  • Time Factors


  • Arabidopsis Proteins
  • Cell Cycle Proteins
  • Repressor Proteins
  • SPA1 protein, Arabidopsis