Xylogenesis in zinnia (Zinnia elegans) cell cultures: unravelling the regulatory steps in a complex developmental programmed cell death event

Elena T. Iakimova, Ernst J. Woltering*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

19 Citations (Scopus)


Main conclusion: Physiological and molecular studies support the view that xylogenesis can largely be determined as a specific form of vacuolar programmed cell death (PCD). The studies in xylogenic zinnia cell culture have led to many breakthroughs in xylogenesis research and provided a background for investigations in other experimental models in vitro andin planta. This review discusses the most essential earlier and recent findings on the regulation of xylem elements differentiation and PCD in zinnia and other xylogenic systems.Xylogenesis (the formation of water conducting vascular tissue) is a paradigm of plant developmental PCD. The xylem vessels are composed of fused tracheary elements (TEs)—dead, hollow cells with patterned lignified secondary cell walls. They result from the differentiation of the procambium and cambium cells and undergo cell death to become functional post-mortem. The TE differentiation proceeds through a well-coordinated sequence of events in which differentiation and the programmed cellular demise are intimately connected. For years a classical experimental model for studies on xylogenesis was the xylogenic zinnia (Zinnia elegans) cell culture derived from leaf mesophyll cells that, upon induction by cytokinin and auxin, transdifferentiate into TEs. This cell system has been proven very efficient for investigations on the regulatory components of xylem differentiation which has led to many discoveries on the mechanisms of xylogenesis. The knowledge gained from this system has potentiated studies in other xylogenic cultures in vitro and in planta. The present review summarises the previous and latest findings on the hormonal and biochemical signalling, metabolic pathways and molecular and gene determinants underlying the regulation of xylem vessels differentiation in zinnia cell culture. Highlighted are breakthroughs achieved through the use of xylogenic systems from other species and newly introduced tools and analytical approaches to study the processes. The mutual dependence between PCD signalling and the differentiation cascade in the program of TE development is discussed.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)681-705
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2017


  • Cell culture
  • Experimental approaches
  • Programmed cell death
  • Signalling
  • Xylogenesis
  • Zinnia elegans

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