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Research article2021Peer reviewedOpen access

Abscisic acid signaling activates distinct VND transcription factors to promote xylem differentiation in Arabidopsis

Ramachandran, Prashanth; Augstein, Frauke; Mazumdar, Shamik; Van Nguyen, Thanh; Minina, Elena A.; Melnyk, Charles W.; Carlsbecker, Annelie


Plants display remarkable abilities to adjust growth and development to environmental conditions, such as the amount of available water. This developmental plasticity is apparent not only in root and shoot growth rates, but also in tissue patterning and cell morphology.(1,2) We have previously shown that in response to limited water availability, Arabidopsis thaliana root displays changes in xylem morphology, mediated by the non-cell-autonomous action of abscisic acid, ABA.(2) Here, we show, through analyses of ABA response reporters and tissue-specific suppression of ABA signaling, that xylem cells themselves act as primary signaling centers governing both xylemcell fate and xylem differentiation rate, revealing the cell-autonomous control of multiple aspects of xylem development by ABA. ABA rapidly activates the expression of genes encoding VASCULAR-RELATED NAC DOMAIN (VND) transcription factors. Molecular and genetic analyses revealed that the two ABA-mediated xylem developmental changes are regulated by distinct members of this transcription factor family, with VND2 and VND3 promoting differentiation rate of metaxylem cells, while VND7 promotes the conversion of metaxylem toward protoxylem morphology. This phenomenon shows how different aspects of developmental plasticity can be interlinked, yet genetically separable. Moreover, similarities in phenotypic and molecular responses to ABA in diverse species indicate evolutionary conservation of the ABA-xylem development regulatory network among eudicots. Hence, this study gives molecular insights into how environmental stress modifies plant vascular anatomy and has potential relevance for water use optimization and adaptation to drought conditions.

Published in

Current Biology
2021, Volume: 31, number: 14, pages: 3153-3161 Publisher: CELL PRESS