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Building plant bodies from hair

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Root hairs are required for the uptake of minerals and water from soil and for anchorage during growth and development of the root system in many plant species. Hairs elongate by a mechanism known as tip growth, where cell expansion is focussed to a restricted region of the cell surface. Similar cell types are found throughout the land plants. For example caulonema and rhizoids are tip-growing cells found in the mosses. In the ferns tip growing rhizoid cells are found in both gametophyte and sporophyte generations. This indicates that the production of tip-growing cells that interact with the substrate are found throughout the land plants. Furthermore, their occurrence in the green algae indicates that the mechanism by which they develop may be ancient.

A cascade of transcription factors regulates the development of root hairs in the model angiosperm Arabidopsis. Early acting transcription factors control the fate of cells in the root epidermis – epidermal cells may be hair-bearing or hairless. We have evidence that the early acting genes also control the expression of a suite of late acting transcription factors that are required for late stages of root hair differentiation when hair outgrowth occurs. One of these genes, RHD6 , is only expressed in the root hair cell where it promotes the transcription of three other related genes which are also required for root hair cell differentiation. Evidence will be presented that defines the regulatory interactions between these genes in Arabidopsis and I will demonstrate that RHD6 and RHD6 -LIKE genes are part of an ancient mechanism that controls the differentiation of tip-growing cells in plants.

This talk is part of the Plant Sciences Departmental Seminars series.

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