Plants Use Genetic Backup to Protect Stem Cells

April 17, 2019

In a new study conducted at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (CSHL), scientists have identified the different genetic strategies that various flowering plant species use to achieve the same status quo.

Stem cells are critical to the survival of flowering plants as they direct how and when a plant will grow. However, having too many or too few stem cells can disrupt a plant's growth. According to CSHL Professor and HHMI Investigator Zach Lippman, a "core genetic circuitry found in all flowering plants" is responsible for all this. In a paper published in Nature Genetics, Lippman and CSHL Professor David Jackson describe the genetic mechanisms that ensure "a deeply conserved stem cell circuit" maintains some function, even if defects occur in a signaling protein called CLV3, and the receptor with which it interacts, CLV1.

Lippman explains that those players are critical for ensuring that a plant has the right number of stem cells throughout life. They discovered that there are backup systems that kick in when these players are compromised through chance mutations. The researchers determined that although stem cell circuits are essential for flowering plants, the genetic backup systems can vary drastically from plant to plant.

For more details, read the news article at the CSHL Newsstand.