Positional Information in Plant Development


Tissue patterning during organogenesis in plants is based on precise cell fate determination of undifferentiated cells, which are derived from stem cells that reside in meristems. Cell fate determination has been shown to be largely dependent on the position of the differentiating cell in the plant body, and not on the lineage. A number of mechanisms were identified that provide positional information to cells or cell populations. Plant hormones like auxin establish gradients or local concentration maxima; cell–cell signalling enables communication between adjacent cell layers via secreted ligands and membrane‐associated receptors; transcription factors can act noncellautonomously and integrate cell behaviour, and long range signals can be transported between cells through plasmodesmata. In addition, the cell wall itself may trigger position‐dependent differentiation. In most developmental processes, a variety of information from different sources acts on the same cell to control cell fate decisions.

Key Concepts:

  • Cell fate determination depends on the position of a cell within the plant, not on its clonal origin.

  • A cell gains positional information from a combination of sources in a constant process until differentiation.

Keywords: phytohormones; plasmodesmata; cell wall; transmembrane receptor kinase; signalling; positional information; cell fate

Figure 1.

(a) Schematic section through a shoot apical meristem (SAM) which is initiating organ primordia; the three cell layers (L1, L2 and L3), the organising centre (OC; blue) and the stem cells (red) are indicated. (b) Scheme of a section through a root tip; different tissues (vasculature, endodermis and cortex, epidermis and columella); the quiescent centre (QC; blue) and the initial cells (red) are indicated.

Figure 2.

Scheme of signalling between two adjacent cells via secretion of a ligand (orange) by the signalling cell and its perception by a RLK (green) in the neighbouring cell. The secreted ligand is able to pass the cell wall.

Figure 3.

Scheme of a root tip and the transport of auxin (orange arrows) with an auxin maximum at the position of the quiescent centre (QC; blue).



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Further Reading

Bleckmann A and Simon R (2009) Interdomain signaling in stem cell maintenance of plant shoot meristems. Molecular Cells 27: 615–620.

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How to Cite close
Pallakies, Helge, and Simon, Rüdiger(Apr 2010) Positional Information in Plant Development. In: eLS. John Wiley & Sons Ltd, Chichester. http://www.els.net [doi: 10.1002/9780470015902.a0002069.pub2]