Identifying downstream targets of FILAMENTOUS FLOWER, a YABBY transcription factor that promotes organ polarity and lateral growth in Arabidopsis
Document TypePhD thesis
Access StatusOpen Access
© 2017 Dr. Oliver Bonaccorso
Angiosperm leaves are typically polar structures with a distinct arrangement of cell types along the adaxial-abaxial (upper-lower) axis. Studies of leaf development in the model dicot plant Arabidopsis thaliana have shown that adaxial-abaxial patterning is not only associated with the formation of distinct cell types, but also triggers growth along the lateral axis leading to the formation of the leaf blade or lamina. Adaxial-abaxial patterning factors identified in a variety of plants including Arabidopsis, Antirrhinum and maize are either small regulatory RNAs or transcription factors. Although first categorized as being involved in adaxial-abaxial patterning, the YABBY (YAB) family of transcription factors is now thought to play a pivotal role in coordinating various developmental programs involved in leaf blade formation. As part of an approach to identify targets of the Arabidopsis YAB gene FILAMENTOUS FLOWER (FIL), this study generated transgenic lines with inducible FIL activity. Constitutive activation of FIL resulted in the partial abaxialisation of leaves and reduced blade growth, phenotypes that have previously been attributed to ectopic YAB expression. Further analysis showed that constitutive FIL activity increased the rate of cell cycle progression in specific regions of the developing leaf, as well as increasing sensitivity to exogenously applied auxin. The latter phenotype was inferred from increased activity of an auxin-signalling reporter, suggesting that FIL modulates auxin responses in Arabidopsis. Transcriptional profiling with microarrays was subsequently used to monitor genome-wide changes in gene expression following FIL activation. This analysis identified groups of genes that were either positively or negatively regulated by FIL and extensive testing of a subset of these genes showed that some were direct targets. On the basis of these results it is proposed that FIL functions as both a transcriptional activator as well as repressor during leaf development. Among the positively regulated genes identified as FIL targets, two are well-known abaxial patterning factors, KANADI1 (KAN1) and AUXIN RESPONSE FACTOR4 (ARF4). Given the well-defined role these factors play during leaf development, this study focused on their regulation. Analysis of mutant lines lacking activity of the leaf-expressed YABs revealed a significant reduction in KAN1 expression, but not ARF4 expression. These results confirm that FIL is a regulator of KAN1, but presumably regulates ARF4 in combination with other factors. In conclusion, this study identified direct targets of the bifunctional plant transcription factor FIL. Finding that two of these targets promote abaxial cell identity during leaf development supports the case for YABs being important polarity regulators. Given the expression pattern of the YABs, it is argued that YABs are unlikely to function upstream of KAN1/ARF4. Instead, a model is proposed in which YABs promote adaxial/abaxial patterning through a system of positive feedback loops that ultimately maintain the activity of these early abaxial patterning genes during leaf blade formation.
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