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Keywords:

  • epidermal cell differentiation;
  • cuticle;
  • receptor-like protein kinase;
  • ACR4;
  • Arabidopsis thaliana

Summary

In higher plants, an outer layer of meristematic cells, the protoderm, forms early in embryogenesis and this layer gives rise to the epidermis in differentiating tissues. We proposed previously that an Arabidopsis thaliana homolog of crinkly4 (ACR4), a gene for a receptor-like protein kinase, would be involved in differentiation and/or maintenance of epidermis-related tissues. In the present study, we isolated loss-of-function acr4 mutants by a reverse genetic approach. Our extensive analyses using the transmission electron microscopy and the toluidine blue test – a method that has recently been developed for the rapid visualization of defects in the leaf cuticle – showed that the acr4 mutations significantly affected the differentiation of leaf epidermal cells, suggesting similar roles for ACR4 and CR4 in the differentiation of leaf epidermis. Our acr4 mutants also had various abnormalities related to epidermal differentiation, which included disorganized cell layers in the integument and endothelium of ovules. In addition, the green fluorescent protein fused to ACR4 was localized preferentially on the lateral and basal plasma membranes in the epidermis of the leaf primordia, suggesting a role for ACR4 in epidermal differentiation at cell surfaces that make contact with adjacent cells. Furthermore, the loss-of-function mutations in the ACR4 and ABNORMAL LEAF SHAPE1 (ALE1) genes, which encode a putative subtilisin-like serine protease, synergistically affected the function of the epidermis such that most leaves fused. Thus, ACR4 seems to play an essential role in the differentiation of proper epidermal cells in both vegetative and reproductive tissues.