The roots of a plant are constantly growing, so that they can provide the plant with water and minerals while also giving it a firm anchor in the ground. Responsible for these functions are pluripotent stem cells. In order to avoid differentiation and to remain pluripotent, these stem cells are dependent on signals from their neighboring cells. These signals are generated by only a small group of slowly dividing cells in the so-called quiescent center inside the root. An international consortium under the leadership of Prof. Dr. Thomas Laux, a biologist from the University of Freiburg in Germany, has identified the transcription factor Wuschel homeobox (WOX) 5 as the signaling molecule, showing that it moves through pores from the cells inside the quiescent center into the stem cells. The Laux team of researchers has published its findings online on May 28, 2015 in Develomental Cell. The article is titled “Organizer-Derived WOX5 Signal Maintains Root Columella Stem Cells through Chromatin-Mediated Repression of CDF4 Expression.” “Solving the mechanism by which signals within the root control stem cell activity has implications for the general workings of the stem cell regulation in plants and humans,” Dr. Laux said. He also explained that this will allow scientists to study how plant growth adjusts to different environmental conditions, adding that, “this is a fascinating field of research in the era of climate change.” Dr. Laux is the head of a laboratory at the Institute of Biology III and a member of the cluster of excellence BIOSS Centre for Biological Signaling Studies at the University of Freiburg.
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