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Science 329 (5997): 1306-1311

Copyright © 2010 by the American Association for the Advancement of Science

Oscillating Gene Expression Determines Competence for Periodic Arabidopsis Root Branching

Miguel A. Moreno-Risueno,1 Jaimie M. Van Norman,1 Antonio Moreno,2 Jingyuan Zhang,1 Sebastian E. Ahnert,3 Philip N. Benfey1,*

Abstract: Plants and animals produce modular developmental units in a periodic fashion. In plants, lateral roots form as repeating units along the root primary axis; however, the developmental mechanism regulating this process is unknown. We found that cyclic expression pulses of a reporter gene mark the position of future lateral roots by establishing prebranch sites and that prebranch site production and root bending are periodic. Microarray and promoter-luciferase studies revealed two sets of genes oscillating in opposite phases at the root tip. Genetic studies show that some oscillating transcriptional regulators are required for periodicity in one or both developmental processes. This molecular mechanism has characteristics that resemble molecular clock–driven activities in animal species.

1 Department of Biology and Institute for Genome Sciences and Policy Center for Systems Biology, Duke University, Durham, NC 27708, USA.
2 Departamento de Acustica Ambiental, Instituto de Acustica, Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Cientificas, Serrano 144, Madrid 28006, Spain.
3 Theory of Condensed Matter Group, Cavendish Laboratory, University of Cambridge, Cambridge CB3 0HE, UK.

* To whom correspondence should be addressed. E-mail: philip.benfey{at}

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