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Cell Identity Mediates the Response of Arabidopsis Roots to Abiotic Stress

Science, 16 May 2008
Vol. 320, Issue 5878, p. 942-945
DOI: 10.1126/science.1153795

Cell Identity Mediates the Response of Arabidopsis Roots to Abiotic Stress

  1. José R. Dinneny1,*,,
  2. Terri A. Long1,*,
  3. Jean Y. Wang1,
  4. Jee W. Jung1,
  5. Daniel Mace2,
  6. Solomon Pointer1,
  7. Christa Barron3,
  8. Siobhan M. Brady1,
  9. John Schiefelbein3,
  10. Philip N. Benfey1,2,
  1. 1 Department of Biology, Duke University, Durham, NC 27708, USA.
  2. 2 Institute for Genome Sciences and Policy Center for Systems Biology, Duke University, Durham, NC 27708, USA.
  3. 3 Department of Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI 48109, USA.
  1. To whom correspondence should be addressed. E-mail: philip.benfey{at}
  • * These authors contributed equally to this work.

  • Present address: Temasek Lifesciences Laboratory, National University of Singapore, Singapore 117604, Singapore.


Little is known about the way developmental cues affect how cells interpret their environment. We characterized the transcriptional response to high salinity of different cell layers and developmental stages of the Arabidopsis root and found that transcriptional responses are highly constrained by developmental parameters. These transcriptional changes lead to the differential regulation of specific biological functions in subsets of cell layers, several of which correspond to observable physiological changes. We showed that known stress pathways primarily control semiubiquitous responses and used mutants that disrupt epidermal patterning to reveal cell-layer–specific and inter–cell-layer effects. By performing a similar analysis using iron deprivation, we identified common cell-type–specific stress responses and revealed the crucial role the environment plays in defining the transcriptional outcome of cell-fate decisions.

    • Received for publication 5 December 2007.
    • Accepted for publication 19 March 2008.


    J. R. Dinneny, T. A. Long, J. Y. Wang, J. W. Jung, D. Mace, S. Pointer, C. Barron, S. M. Brady, J. Schiefelbein, and P. N. Benfey, Cell Identity Mediates the Response of Arabidopsis Roots to Abiotic Stress. Science 320, 942-945 (2008).

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