Cell-Fate Specification in Arabidopsis Roots Requires Coordinative Action of Lineage Instruction and Positional Reprogramming

Plant Physiol. 2017 Oct;175(2):816-827. doi: 10.1104/pp.17.00814. Epub 2017 Aug 18.


Tissue organization and pattern formation within a multicellular organism rely on coordinated cell division and cell-fate determination. In animals, cell fates are mainly determined by a cell lineage-dependent mechanism, whereas in plants, positional information is thought to be the primary determinant of cell fates. However, our understanding of cell-fate regulation in plants mostly relies on the histological and anatomical studies on Arabidopsis (Arabidopsis thaliana) roots, which contain a single layer of each cell type in nonvascular tissues. Here, we investigate the dynamic cell-fate acquisition in modified Arabidopsis roots with additional cell layers that are artificially generated by the misexpression of SHORT-ROOT (SHR). We found that cell-fate determination in Arabidopsis roots is a dimorphic cascade with lineage inheritance dominant in the early stage of pattern formation. The inherited cell identity can subsequently be removed or modified by positional information. The instruction of cell-fate conversion is not a fast readout during root development. The final identity of a cell type is determined by the synergistic contribution from multiple layers of regulation, including symplastic communication across tissues. Our findings underline the collaborative inputs during cell-fate instruction.

MeSH terms

  • Arabidopsis / cytology
  • Arabidopsis / genetics
  • Arabidopsis / physiology*
  • Arabidopsis Proteins / genetics
  • Arabidopsis Proteins / metabolism*
  • Body Patterning
  • Cell Differentiation*
  • Cell Division
  • Cell Lineage
  • Microscopy, Confocal
  • Plant Roots / cytology
  • Plant Roots / genetics
  • Plant Roots / physiology*
  • Transcription Factors / genetics
  • Transcription Factors / metabolism*


  • Arabidopsis Proteins
  • SHORT ROOT protein, Arabidopsis
  • Transcription Factors