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Open Access Highly Accessed Open Badges Research article

Genetic analysis of ectopic growth suppression during planar growth of integuments mediated by the Arabidopsis AGC protein kinase UNICORN

Balaji Enugutti1 and Kay Schneitz2*

Author Affiliations

1 Present address: Institute of Molecular Biotechnology of the Austrian Academy of Sciences (IMBA), Dr. Bohr-Gasse 3-5, 1030, Vienna, Austria

2 Entwicklungsbiologie der Pflanzen, Wissenschaftszentrum Weihenstephan, Technische Universität München, Emil-Ramann-Strasse 4, 85354, Freising, Germany

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BMC Plant Biology 2013, 13:2  doi:10.1186/1471-2229-13-2

Published: 2 January 2013



The coordination of growth within a tissue layer is of critical importance for tissue morphogenesis. For example, cells within the epidermis undergo stereotypic cell divisions that are oriented along the plane of the layer (planar growth), thereby propagating the layered epidermal structure. Little is known about the developmental control that regulates such planar growth in plants. Recent evidence suggested that the Arabidopsis AGC VIII protein kinase UNICORN (UCN) maintains planar growth by suppressing the formation of ectopic multicellular protrusions in several floral tissues including integuments. In the current model UCN controls this process during integument development by directly interacting with the ABERRANT TESTA SHAPE (ATS) protein, a member of the KANADI (KAN) family of transcription factors, thereby repressing its activity. Here we report on the further characterization of the UCN mechanism.


Phenotypic analysis of flowers of ucn-1 plants impaired in floral homeotic gene activity revealed that any of the four floral whorls could produce organs carrying ucn-1 protrusions. The ectopic outgrowths of ucn integuments did not accumulate detectable signals of the auxin and cytokinin reporters DR5rev::GFP and ARR5::GUS, respectively. Furthermore, wild-type and ucn-1 seedlings showed similarly strong callus formation upon in vitro culture on callus-inducing medium. We also show that ovules of ucn-1 plants carrying the dominant ats allele sk21-D exhibited more pronounced protrusion formation. Finally ovules of ucn-1 ett-1 double mutants and ucn-1 ett-1 arf4-1 triple mutants displayed an additive phenotype.


These data deepen the molecular insight into the UCN-mediated control of planar growth during integument development. The presented evidence indicates that UCN downstream signaling does not involve the control of auxin or cytokinin homeostasis. The results also reveal that UCN interacts with ATS independently of an ATS/ETT complex required for integument initiation and they further emphasize the necessity to balance UCN and ATS proteins during maintenance of planar growth in integuments.

Arabidopsis; Auxin; ABERRANT TESTA SHAPE; AGC protein kinase; AUXIN RESPONSE FACTOR 4; Cell division; Cytokinin; ETTIN; Growth regulation; KANADI; Planar growth; Ovule; Signal transduction; UNICORN