PRC2 Represses Hormone-Induced Somatic Embryogenesis in Vegetative Tissue of Arabidopsis thaliana

PLoS Genet. 2017 Jan 17;13(1):e1006562. doi: 10.1371/journal.pgen.1006562. eCollection 2017 Jan.


Many plant cells can be reprogrammed into a pluripotent state that allows ectopic organ development. Inducing totipotent states to stimulate somatic embryo (SE) development is, however, challenging due to insufficient understanding of molecular barriers that prevent somatic cell dedifferentiation. Here we show that Polycomb repressive complex 2 (PRC2)-activity imposes a barrier to hormone-mediated transcriptional reprogramming towards somatic embryogenesis in vegetative tissue of Arabidopsis thaliana. We identify factors that enable SE development in PRC2-depleted shoot and root tissue and demonstrate that the establishment of embryogenic potential is marked by ectopic co-activation of crucial developmental regulators that specify shoot, root and embryo identity. Using inducible activation of PRC2 in PRC2-depleted cells, we demonstrate that transient reduction of PRC2 activity is sufficient for SE formation. We suggest that modulation of PRC2 activity in plant vegetative tissue combined with targeted activation of developmental pathways will open possibilities for novel approaches to cell reprogramming.

MeSH terms

  • Arabidopsis / drug effects
  • Arabidopsis / genetics*
  • Arabidopsis / growth & development
  • Arabidopsis Proteins / genetics
  • Arabidopsis Proteins / metabolism*
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Plant
  • Indoleacetic Acids / pharmacology
  • Plant Roots / growth & development
  • Plant Roots / metabolism
  • Plant Shoots / growth & development
  • Plant Shoots / metabolism
  • Plant Somatic Embryogenesis Techniques*
  • Polycomb Repressive Complex 2
  • Repressor Proteins / genetics
  • Repressor Proteins / metabolism*


  • Arabidopsis Proteins
  • Indoleacetic Acids
  • PRC2 protein, Arabidopsis
  • Repressor Proteins
  • Polycomb Repressive Complex 2

Grants and funding

This work was funded by EMBO ( ALTF_1492-2011 to IM, the Swedish Research Council VR ( to LH, the Knut-and-Alice-Wallenberg Foundation ( to LH, and by the Nilsson-Ehle ( and Lars Hierta Memorial ( foundations to IM, the Czech Science Foundation ( 16-08423Y) to IM and the National Programme of Sustainability ( (#LO1416) to Centre Algatech, Institute of Microbiology, CZ. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.