A key feature of the development of a higher plant is the continuous formation of new organs from the meristems. Originally patterned during embryogenesis, the meristems must activate cell division de novo at the time of germination, in order to initiate post-embryonic development. In a mutagenesis screen aimed at finding new players in early seedling cell division control, we identified ELONGATA3 (ELO3) as a key regulator of meristem cell cycle activation in Arabidopsis. Our results show that plants carrying a hypomorphic allele of ELO3 fail to activate cell division in the meristems following germination, which leads to seedling growth arrest and lethality. Further analyses suggest that this is due to a failure in DNA replication, followed by cell cycle arrest, in the meristematic tissue. Interestingly, the meristem cell cycle arrest in elo3 mutants, but not the later leaf developmental defects that have been linked to the loss of ELO3 activities, can be relieved by the addition of metabolic sugars in the growth medium. This finding points to a new role by which carbohydrate availability promotes meristem growth. Furthermore, growth arrested elo3 mutants suffer a partial loss of shoot meristem identity, which provides further evidence that cell cycle activities can influence the control of tissue identity.
Keywords: Arabidopsis; Cell division; ELO3; Shoot meristem.
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