Nitrate modulates stem cell dynamics in Arabidopsis shoot meristems through cytokinins

26 Feb 2018

The shoot apical meristem (SAM) is responsible for the generation of all of the aerial parts of plants. Given its critical role, dynamical changes in SAM activity should play a central role in the adaptation of plant architecture to the environment. Using quantitative microscopy, grafting experiments and genetic perturbations, we connect the plant environment to the SAM, by describing the molecular mechanism by which cytokinins signal the level of nutrient availability to the SAM. We show that a systemic signal of cytokinin precursors mediates the adaptation of SAM size and organogenesis rate to the availability of mineral nutrients by modulating the expression of WUSCHEL, a key regulator of stem cell homeostasis. In time- lapse experiments, we further show that this mechanism allows meristems to adapt to rapid changes in nitrate concentration, and thereby modulate their rate of organ production to the availability of mineral nutrients within a few days. Our work sheds new light on the role of the stem cell regulatory network, by showing that it does not only maintain meristem homeostasis but also allows plants to adapt to rapid changes in the environment.