Phloem differentiation: an integrative model for cell specification.07 Feb 2018
Plant vasculature consists of two major conductive cell types, xylem tracheary elements and phloem sieve elements (SEs). Both cell types undergo a highly specialized differentiation process. The root meristem of Arabidopsis displays a stereotypical anatomy in which the central vasculature is surrounded by concentric layers of outer tissues. Each cell file is derived from stem cells located in the root tip. A series of formative and proliferative divisions take place in the meristem; these are followed by cell expansion and differentiation. Protophloem differentiation is unique in being complete only 20-25 cells away from the first stem cell, and during the differentiation process the cells lose several organelles, including the nucleus, while the remaining organelles are rearranged. Defects in SE development have been shown to result in impaired auxin transport and response and therefore systemically affect root growth. Although a few genes have been demonstrated to function in phloem development, detailed analyses and a comprehensive understanding of sieve element development (i.e. how often the stem cells divide, how frequently enucleation takes place, and how SE development is coordinated between cell division and differentiation on a molecular level) are still lacking. Advanced live-imaging techniques which enable prolonged time-lapse captures of root tip growth as well as single-cell transcriptomic analysis of the 20-25 cells in the SE file could help resolve these questions. In addition, understanding the interplay between the PLETHORA (PLT) gradient, which is known to govern the root zonation, and phloem development within the root meristem could shed light on the rapidity of SE differentiation and its importance to the meristem.