The BABY BOOM transcription factor activates the LEC1-ABI3-FUS3-LEC2 network to induce somatic embryogenesis

Anneke Horstman, Mengfan Li, Iris Heidmann, Mieke Weemen, Baojian Chen, Jose M. Muino, Gerco C. Angenent, Kim Boutilier*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

193 Citations (Scopus)


Somatic embryogenesis is an example of induced cellular totipotency, where embryos develop from vegetative cells rather than from gamete fusion. Somatic embryogenesis can be induced in vitro by exposing explants to growth regulators and/or stress treatments. The BABY BOOM (BBM) and LEAFY COTYLEDON1 (LEC1) and LEC2 transcription factors are key regulators of plant cell totipotency, as ectopic overexpression of either transcription factor induces somatic embryo formation from Arabidopsis (Arabidopsis thaliana) seedlings without exogenous growth regulators or stress treatments. Although LEC and BBM proteins regulate the same developmental process, it is not known whether they function in the same molecular pathway. We show that BBM transcriptionally regulates LEC1 and LEC2, as well as the two other LAFL genes, FUSCA3 (FUS3) and ABSCISIC ACID INSENSITIVE3 (ABI3). LEC2 and ABI3 quantitatively regulate BBM-mediated somatic embryogenesis, while FUS3 and LEC1 are essential for this process. BBM-mediated somatic embryogenesis is dose and context dependent, and the contextdependent phenotypes are associated with differential LAFL expression. We also uncover functional redundancy for somatic embryogenesis among other Arabidopsis BBM-like proteins and show that one of these proteins, PLETHORA2, also regulates LAFL gene expression. Our data place BBM upstream of other major regulators of plant embryo identity and totipotency.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)848-857
JournalPlant Physiology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2017


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