PIN-FORMED (PIN) proteins localize asymmetrically at the plasma membrane and mediate intercellular polar transport of the plant hormone auxin that is crucial for a multitude of developmental processes in plants. PIN localization is under extensive control by environmental or developmental cues, but mechanisms regulating PIN localization are not fully understood. Here we show that early endosomal components ARF GEF BEN1 and newly identified Sec1/Munc18 family protein BEN2 are involved in distinct steps of early endosomal trafficking. BEN1 and BEN2 are collectively required for polar PIN localization, for their dynamic repolarization, and consequently for auxin activity gradient formation and auxin-related developmental processes including embryonic patterning, organogenesis, and vasculature venation patterning. These results show that early endosomal trafficking is crucial for cell polarity and auxin-dependent regulation of plant architecture.
Auxin is a unique plant hormone, which is actively and directionally transported in plant tissues. Transported auxin locally accumulates in the plant body and triggers a multitude of responses, including organ formation and patterning. Therefore, regulation of the directional auxin transport is very important in multiple aspects of plant development. The PIN-FORMED (PIN) family of auxin transporters is known to localize at specific sides of cells and export auxin from the cells, enabling the directional transport of auxin in the tissues. PIN proteins are rapidly shuttling between the plasma membrane and intracellular compartments, potentially allowing dynamic changes of the asymmetric localization according to developmental and environmental cues. Here, we discovered that a mutation in the Sec1/Munc18 family protein VPS45 abolishes its own early endosomal localization and compromises intracellular trafficking of PIN proteins. By genetic and pharmacological inhibition of early endosomal trafficking, we also revealed that another early endosomal protein, ARF GEF BEN1, is involved in early endosomal trafficking at a distinct step. Furthermore, we showed that these components play crucial roles in polar localization and dynamic repolarization of PIN proteins, which underpin various developmental processes. These findings highlight the indispensable roles of early endosomal components in regulating PIN polarity and plant architecture.