The WUSCHEL homeobox transcription factor is required to specify stem-cell identity at the shoot apical meristem and its ectopic expression is sufficient to induce de novo shoot meristem formation. Yet, the manner by which WUS promotes stem-cell fate is not yet fully understood. In the present research we address this question by inducing WUS function outside of its domain. We show that activation of WUS function in the root inhibits the responses to exogenous auxin and suppresses the initiation and growth of lateral roots. Using time lapse movies to follow the cell-cycle marker CYCB1;1::GFP, we also show that activation of WUS function suppresses cell division and cell elongation. In addition, activation of WUS represses the auxin-induced expression of the PLETHORA1 root identity gene and promotes shoot fate. Shoot apical meristem formation requires a high cytokinin-to-auxin ratio. Our findings provide evidence for the manner by which WUS specifies stem-cell identity: by affecting auxin responses, by reducing the cell mitotic activity and by repressing other developmental pathways. At the meristem, the stem-cells which are characterized by low division rate are surrounded by the highly proliferative meristematic cells. Our results also provide a model for WUS establishing the differential mitotic rates between two cell populations at the minute structure of the meristem.
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