Cell division patterning is important to determine body shape in plants. Nuclear auxin signaling mediated by AUXIN RESPONSE FACTOR (ARF) transcription factors affects plant growth and development through regulation of cell division, elongation and differentiation. The evolutionary origin of the ARF-mediated pathway dates back to at least the common ancestor of bryophytes and other land plants. The liverwort Marchantia polymorpha has three phylogenetically distinct ARFs: MpARF1, the sole 'activator' ARF; and MpARF2 and MpARF3, two 'repressor' ARFs. Genetic screens for auxin-resistant mutants revealed that loss of MpARF1 function conferred auxin insensitivity. Mparf1 mutants showed reduced auxin-inducible gene expression and various developmental defects, including thallus twisting and gemma malformation. We further investigated the role of MpARF1 in gemma development, which is traceable at the cellular level. In wild-type plants, a gemma initial first undergoes several transverse divisions to generate a single-celled stalk and a gemma proper, followed by rather synchronous longitudinal divisions in the latter. Mparf1 mutants often contained multicelled stalks and showed defects in the execution and timing of the longitudinal divisions. While wild-type gemmae finally generate two meristem notches, Mparf1 gemmae displayed various numbers of ectopic meristems. These results suggest that MpARF1 regulates formative cell divisions and axis formation through auxin responses. The mechanism for activator ARF regulation of pattern formation may be shared in land plants and therefore important for the general acquisition of three-dimensional body plans.
- Cell division
- Pattern formation