Like other complex multicellular organisms, plants are composed of different cell types with specialized shapes and functions. For example, most laminar leaves consist of multiple photosynthetic cell types. These cell types include the palisade mesophyll, which typically forms one or more cell layers on the adaxial side of the leaf. Despite their importance for photosynthesis, we know little about how palisade cells differ at the molecular level from other photosynthetic cell types. To this end, we have used a combination of cell-specific profiling using fluorescence-activated cell sorting and single-cell RNA-sequencing methods to generate a transcriptional blueprint of the palisade mesophyll in Arabidopsis thaliana leaves. We find that despite their unique morphology, palisade cells are otherwise transcriptionally similar to other photosynthetic cell types. Nevertheless, we show that some genes in the phenylpropanoid biosynthesis pathway have both palisade-enriched expression and are light-regulated. Phenylpropanoid gene activity in the palisade was required for production of the ultraviolet (UV)-B protectant sinapoylmalate, which may protect the palisade and/or other leaf cells against damaging UV light. These findings improve our understanding of how different photosynthetic cell types in the leaf can function uniquely to optimize leaf performance, despite their transcriptional similarities.
© The Author(s) 2022. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of American Society of Plant Biologists.