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The bHLH transcription factor SPATULA regulates root growth by controlling the size of the root meristem

Srilakshmi Makkena1 and Rebecca S Lamb12*

Author affiliations

1 Plant Cellular and Molecular Biology Graduate Program, The Ohio State University, Columbus, OH, USA

2 Department of Molecular Genetics, The Ohio State University, Columbus, OH, USA

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Citation and License

BMC Plant Biology 2013, 13:1  doi:10.1186/1471-2229-13-1

Published: 2 January 2013



The Arabidopsis thaliana gene SPATULA (SPT), encoding a bHLH transcription factor, was originally identified for its role in pistil development. SPT is necessary for the growth and development of all carpel margin tissues including the style, stigma, septum and transmitting tract. Since then, it has been shown to have pleiotropic roles during development, including restricting the meristematic region of the leaf primordia and cotyledon expansion. Although SPT is expressed in roots, its role in this organ has not been investigated.


An analysis of embryo and root development showed that loss of SPT function causes an increase in quiescent center size in both the embryonic and postembryonic stem cell niches. In addition, root meristem size is larger due to increased division, which leads to a longer primary root. spt mutants exhibit other pleiotropic developmental phenotypes, including more flowers, shorter internodes and an extended flowering period. Genetic and molecular analysis suggests that SPT regulates cell proliferation in parallel to gibberellic acid as well as affecting auxin accumulation or transport.


Our data suggest that SPT functions in growth control throughout sporophytic growth of Arabidopsis, but is not necessary for cell fate decisions except during carpel development. SPT functions independently of gibberellic acid during root development, but may play a role in regulating auxin transport or accumulation. Our data suggests that SPT plays a role in control of root growth, similar to its roles in above ground tissues.