Reprogramming cells to study vacuolar development.

Feeney, M., Frigerio, L., Kohalmi, S.E., Cui, Y., and Menassa, R. (2013). "Reprogramming cells to study vacuolar development.", Frontiers in Plant Science, 4(493). doi : 10.3389/fpls.2013.00493  Access to full text


During vegetative and embryonic developmental transitions, plant cells are massively reorganized to support the activities that will take place during the subsequent developmental phase. Studying cellular and subcellular changes that occur during these short transitional periods can sometimes present challenges, especially when dealing with Arabidopsis thaliana embryo and seed tissues. As a complementary approach, cellular reprogramming can be used as a tool to study these cellular changes in another, more easily accessible, tissue type. To reprogram cells, genetic manipulation of particular regulatory factors that play critical roles in establishing or repressing the seed developmental program can be used to bring about a change of cell fate. During different developmental phases, vacuoles assume different functions and morphologies to respond to the changing needs of the cell. Lytic vacuoles (LVs) and protein storage vacuoles (PSVs) are the two main vacuole types found in flowering plants such as Arabidopsis. Although both are morphologically distinct and carry out unique functions, they also share some similar activities. As the co-existence of the two vacuole types is short-lived in plant cells, how they replace each other has been a long-standing curiosity. To study the LV to PSV transition, LEAFY COTYLEDON2, a key transcriptional regulator of seed development, was overexpressed in vegetative cells to activate the seed developmental program. At the cellular level, Arabidopsis leaf LVs were observed to convert to PSV-like organelles. This presents the opportunity for further research to elucidate the mechanism of LV to PSV transitions. Overall, this example demonstrates the potential usefulness of cellular reprogramming as a method to study cellular processes that occur during developmental transitions.

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