Exocytosis is integral to root growth: trafficking components of systems that control growth (e.g., PIN auxin transport proteins) to the plasma membrane, and secreting materials that expand the cell wall to the apoplast. Spatiotemporal regulation of exocytosis in eukaryotes often involves the exocyst, an octameric complex that tethers selected secretory vesicles to specific sites on the plasma membrane and facilitates their exocytosis. We evaluated Arabidopsis lines with mutations in four exocyst components (SEC5, SEC8, EXO70A1 and EXO84B) to explore exocyst function in primary root growth.
The mutants have root growth rates that are 82% to 11% of wild-type. Even in lines with the most severe defects, the organization of the quiescent center and tissue layers at the root tips appears similar to wild-type, although meristematic, transition, and elongation zones are shorter. Reduced cell production rates in the mutants are due to the shorter meristems, but not to lengthened cell cycles. Additionally, mutants demonstrate reduced anisotropic cell expansion in the elongation zone, but not the meristematic zone, resulting in shorter mature cells that are similar in shape to wild-type. As expected, hypersensitivity to brefeldin A links the mutant root growth defect to altered vesicular trafficking. Several experimental approaches (e.g., dose–response measurements, localization of signaling components) failed to identify aberrant auxin or brassinosteroid signaling as a primary driver for reduced root growth in exocyst mutants.
The exocyst participates in two spatially distinct developmental processes, apparently by mechanisms not directly linked to auxin or brassinosteroid signaling pathways, to help establish root meristem size, and to facilitate rapid cell expansion in the elongation zone.
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