Digging out roots: pattern formation, cell division, and morphogenesis in plants.

B. Scheres*, R. Heidstra

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

17 Citations (Scopus)


The analysis of plant development by genetic, molecular, and surgical approaches has accumulated a large body of data, and yet it remains a challenge to uncover the basic mechanisms that are operating. Early steps of development, when the zygote and its daughter cells organize the embryonic plant, are poorly understood despite considerable efforts toward the identification of relevant genes. Reported cases of genetic redundancy suggest that the difficulty in uncovering patterning genes may reflect overlapping gene activities. Our current knowledge on plant embryo development still leaves open whether mechanisms for axis formation and subsequent pattern formation are fundamentally different in animals and plants. Axis formation may follow the general principle of establishing a peripheral asymmetric cue and mobilizing the cytoskeleton toward this cue--in the case of plants possibly located in the cell wall--but the molecules involved may be entirely different. Embryonic pattern formation involves the establishment of different domains, but although there are candidates, it is not clear whether genes that define these domains are identified yet. Pattern formation continues postembryonically in the meristem, and the flexibility of this process may be explained by a feed-forward system of patterning cues originating from more mature cells. Control of cell division and differentiation, which is important in the meristems--regions of continuous development--has been studied intensively and appears to involve short-range signaling and transmembrane receptor kinase activation. Finally, although high importance of control of cell division rates and planes for plant morphogenesis have been often inferred, recent genetic studies as well as comparative morphological data point to a less decisive role of cell division and to global controls of as yet unknown nature.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)207-247
Number of pages41
JournalCurrent Topics in Developmental Biology
Publication statusPublished - 1999
Externally publishedYes


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