Cytokinins initiate secondary growth in the Arabidopsis root through a set of LBD genes

Curr Biol. 2021 Aug 9;31(15):3365-3373.e7. doi: 10.1016/j.cub.2021.05.036. Epub 2021 Jun 14.


During primary growth, plant tissues increase their length, and as these tissues mature, they initiate secondary growth to increase thickness.1 It is not known what activates this transition to secondary growth. Cytokinins are key plant hormones regulating vascular development during both primary and secondary growth. During primary growth of Arabidopsis roots, cytokinins promote procambial cell proliferation2,3 and vascular patterning together with the hormone auxin.4-7 In the absence of cytokinins, secondary growth fails to initiate.8 Enhanced cytokinin levels, in turn, promote secondary growth.8,9 Despite the importance of cytokinins, little is known about the downstream signaling events in this process. Here, we show that cytokinins and a few downstream LATERAL ORGAN BOUNDARIES DOMAIN (LBD) family of transcription factors are rate-limiting components in activating and further promoting secondary growth in Arabidopsis roots. Cytokinins directly activate transcription of two homologous LBD genes, LBD3 and LBD4. Two other homologous LBDs, LBD1 and LBD11, are induced only after prolonged cytokinin treatment. Our genetic studies revealed a two-stage mechanism downstream of cytokinin signaling: while LBD3 and LBD4 regulate activation of secondary growth, LBD1, LBD3, LBD4, and LBD11 together promote further radial growth and maintenance of cambial stem cells. LBD overexpression promoted rapid cell growth followed by accelerated cell divisions, thus leading to enhanced secondary growth. Finally, we show that LBDs rapidly inhibit cytokinin signaling. Together, our data suggest that the cambium-promoting LBDs negatively feed back into cytokinin signaling to keep root secondary growth in balance.

Keywords: cambium; cell growth; cytokinin; pericycle; primary growth; procambium; secondary growth; transcription factor; vascular tissue.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Arabidopsis Proteins* / genetics
  • Arabidopsis Proteins* / metabolism
  • Arabidopsis* / genetics
  • Arabidopsis* / growth & development
  • Cytokinins / physiology*
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Plant
  • Indoleacetic Acids
  • Plant Roots / genetics
  • Plant Roots / growth & development


  • Arabidopsis Proteins
  • Cytokinins
  • Indoleacetic Acids