Strigolactones and the control of plant development: lessons from shoot branching



Strigolactones (SLs) were originally identified through their activities as root exudates in the rhizosphere; however, it is now clear that they have many endogenous signalling roles in plants. In this review we discuss recent progress in understanding SL action in planta, particularly in the context of the regulation of shoot branching, one of the best-characterized endogenous roles for SLs. Rapid progress has been made in understanding SL biosynthesis, but many questions remain unanswered. There are hints of as yet unidentified sources of SL, as well as unknown SL–like molecules with important signalling functions. SL signalling is even more enigmatic. Although a likely receptor has been identified, along with some candidate immediate downstream targets, our understanding of how these targets mediate SL signalling is limited. There is still considerable uncertainty about whether the targets of SL signalling are primarily transcriptional or not. There is at least one non-transcriptional target, because a rapid primary response to SL is the removal of PIN1 auxin exporter proteins from the plasma membrane in vascular-associated cells of the stem. We discuss how the various early events in SL signalling could result in the observed changes in shoot branching.