Molecular Mechanisms Driving Switch Behavior in Xylem Cell Differentiation

Cell Rep. 2019 Jul 9;28(2):342-351.e4. doi: 10.1016/j.celrep.2019.06.041.


Plant xylem cells conduct water and mineral nutrients. Although most plant cells are totipotent, xylem cells are unusual and undergo terminal differentiation. Many genes regulating this process are well characterized, including the Vascular-related NAC Domain 7 (VND7), MYB46, and MYB83 transcription factors, which are proposed to act in interconnected feedforward loops (FFLs). Less is known regarding the molecular mechanisms underlying the terminal transition to xylem cell differentiation. Here, we generate whole-root and single-cell data, which demonstrate that VND7 initiates sharp switching of root cells to xylem cell identity. Based on these data, we identified 4 candidate VND7 downstream target genes capable of generating this switch. Although MYB46 responds to VND7 induction, it is not among these targets. This system provides an important model to study the emergent properties that may give rise to totipotency relative to terminal differentiation and reveals xylem cell subtypes.

Keywords: differentiation; single cell; switch; totipotent; xylem.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Cell Differentiation
  • Plants
  • Transcriptional Activation / physiology*
  • Xylem / metabolism*