During the exploration of the soil by plant roots, uptake of water and nutrients can be greatly fostered by a regular spacing of lateral roots (LRs). In the Arabidopsis root, a regular branching pattern depends on oscillatory gene activity to create prebranch sites, patches of cells competent to form LRs. Thus far, the molecular components regulating the oscillations still remain unclear. Here, we show that a local auxin source in the root cap, derived from the auxin precursor indole-3-butyric acid (IBA), modulates the oscillation amplitude, which in turn determines whether a prebranch site is created or not. Moreover, transcriptome profiling identified novel and IBA-regulated components of root patterning, such as the MEMBRANE-ASSOCIATED KINASE REGULATOR4 (MAKR4) that converts the prebranch sites into a regular spacing of lateral organs. Thus, the spatiotemporal patterning of roots is fine-tuned by the root cap-specific conversion pathway of IBA to auxin and the subsequent induction of MAKR4.
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