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Stem cell regulation in plants

We investigate functions of the plant shoot apical meristem and the role of cell communication in stem cell maintenance and differentiation.

Shoot apical meristems of land plants maintain a small group of stem cells at their tip that divide rarely and remain undifferentiated. Only cells in the periphery of the meristem can initiate the formation of new leaves or flower meristems. The shoot meristem is active throughout the life of the plant; in trees, such a small meristem can maintain its shape and design for hundreds of years, while it is actively growing!

We are trying to find out how cells in the meristem communicate with each other to control the overall activity of meristems. Stem cells at the meristem tip and their neighbours in the peripheral zone secrete small peptides, such as CLV3 and CLE40, that act through plasma-membrane localised receptor molecules to control the expression and function of transcription factors in the meristem. Some of these transcription factors are also mobile and can move through plasmodesmata and trigger specific cellular responses in adjacent domains of the meristem. We study how these different signalling systems operate to coordinate growth and development of the shoot meristem and organ formation. Our approaches involve a variety of different methods, ranging from genetics to biochemical approaches, fluorescent and scanning electron microscopy, image analysis, segmentation and also mathematical modeling. Within this project, we mostly work with Arabidopsis thaliana, but we are also learning a lot from studies on barley and other plant species.

  • Svenja Augustin | Building 26.14 Floor 00 Room 00.069 | Phone +49 211 81-​12991 |
  • Meik Thiele | Building 26.14 Floor 00 Room 00.069 | Phone +49 211 81-​12991 |