Background: Asymmetric cell divisions are formative divisions that generate daughter cells of distinct identity. These divisions are coordinated by either extrinsic ('niche-controlled') or intrinsic regulatory mechanisms and are fundamentally important in plant development.
Scope: This review describes how asymmetric cell divisions are regulated during development and in different cell types in both the root and the shoot of plants. It further highlights ways in which omics and modelling approaches have been used to elucidate these regulatory mechanisms. For example, the regulation of embryonic asymmetric divisions is described, including the first divisions of the zygote, formative vascular divisions and divisions that give rise to the root stem cell niche. Asymmetric divisions of the root cortex endodermis initial, pericycle cells that give rise to the lateral root primordium, procambium, cambium and stomatal cells are also discussed. Finally, a perspective is provided regarding the role of other hormones or regulatory molecules in asymmetric divisions, the presence of segregated determinants and the usefulness of modelling approaches in understanding network dynamics within these very special cells.
Conclusions: Asymmetric cell divisions define plant development. High-throughput genomic and modelling approaches can elucidate their regulation, which in turn could enable the engineering of plant traits such as stomatal density, lateral root development and wood formation.