Happy to announce the publication from the collaboration of the Hammes and the Schwechheimer laboratories with the Hardtke laboratory (Université de Lausanne).

A molecular rheostat adjusts auxin flux to promote root protophloem differentiation.


P. Marhava, A. E. L. Bassukas, M. Zourelidou, M. Kolb, B. Moret, A. Fastner, W. X. Schulze, P. Cattaneo, U. Z. Hammes, C. Schwechheimer and C. S. Hardtke.

Auxin influences plant development through several distinct concentration-dependent effects1. In the Arabidopsis root tip, polar auxin transport by PIN-FORMED (PIN) proteins creates a local auxin accumulation that is required for the maintenance of the stem-cell niche2,3,4. Proximally, stem-cell daughter cells divide repeatedly before they eventually differentiate. This developmental gradient is accompanied by a gradual decrease in auxin levels as cells divide, and subsequently by a gradual increase as the cells differentiate5,6. However, the timing of differentiation is not uniform across cell files. For instance, developing protophloem sieve elements (PPSEs) differentiate as neighbouring cells still divide. Here we show that PPSE differentiation involves local steepening of the post-meristematic auxin gradient. BREVIS RADIX (BRX) and PROTEIN KINASE ASSOCIATED WITH BRX (PAX) are interacting plasma-membrane-associated, polarly localized proteins that co-localize with PIN proteins at the rootward end of developing PPSEs. Both brx and pax mutants display impaired PPSE differentiation. Similar to other AGC-family kinases, PAX activates PIN-mediated auxin efflux, whereas BRX strongly dampens this stimulation. Efficient BRX plasma-membrane localization depends on PAX, but auxin negatively regulates BRX plasma-membrane association and promotes PAX activity. Thus, our data support a model in which BRX and PAX are elements of a molecular rheostat that modulates auxin flux through developing PPSEs, thereby timing PPSE differentiation.