To understand how the identity of an organ can be switched, we studied the transformation of lateral root primordia (LRP) into shoot meristems in Arabidopsis root segments. In this system, the cytokinin-induced conversion does not involve the formation of callus-like structures. Detailed analysis showed that the conversion sequence starts with a mitotic pause and is concomitant with the differential expression of regulators of root and shoot development. The conversion requires the presence of apical stem cells and only LRP at stages VI or VII can be switched. It is engaged as soon as cell divisions resume because their position and orientation differ in the converting organ compared to the undisturbed emerging LRP. By alternating auxin and cytokinin treatments, we showed that the root and shoot organogenetic programs are remarkably plastic because the status of the same plant stem cell niche can be reversed repeatedly within a set developmental window. Thus, the networks at play in the meristem of a root can morph in the span of a couple cell division cycles into those of a shoot, and back, through transdifferentiation.
- Received July 26, 2016.
- Accepted January 26, 2017.