In Arabidopsis, the root meristem originates from the hypophyseal cell and from an adjoining cell tier that is distinct at the heart stage of embryogenesis. We have analysed mutations in the HOBBIT (HBT) gene that is essential for root meristem formation. hbt embryos display incorrect hypophyseal cell development from the quadrant stage onward. At the heart stage, the adjoining cell tier of hbt embryos develops abnormally, in that the activation of cell division and the formation of a lateral root cap layer are disturbed. Strong hbt mutants give rise to seedlings that lack an anatomically recognisable quiescent centre and differentiated columella root cap cells, the cell types derived from the wild-type hypophysis. Furthermore, they have no mitotically active root meristem and lack a differentiated lateral root cap. Secondary roots of hbt mutants and roots obtained from cultured cells of hbt mutants have similar defects. Therefore the HBT gene is required for root meristem formation in different developmental contexts.
The embryonic origin of the Arabidopsis root and hypocotyl region has been investigated using histological techniques and clonal analysis. Our data reveal the pattern of cell division in the embryo giving rise to the various initials within the root promeristem. A small region of the root at its connection with the hypocotyl appears not to be derived from the promeristem initials. This region contains two cortical cell layer and [3H]thymidine incorporation data suggest that it lacks postembryonic cell divisions. Sectors marked by transposon excision from the beta-glucuronidase marker gene are used to investigate cell lineages giving rise to root and hypocotyl. The position of end points from sectors with embryonic origin show little variation and hence reveal preferred positions in the seedling for cells derived from different regions of the embryo. The radial extent of complete root sectors is consistent with the radial arrangement of root meristem initials at the heart stage of embryogenesis inferred from histological analysis. Using the clonal data, a fate map is constructed depicting the destiny of heart stage embryonic cell tiers, in the seedling root and hypocotyl. The variability in the sector end points indicates that distinct cell lineages are not restricted for root or hypocotyl fate. In contrast, derivatives of the hypophyseal cell do appear to be restricted to the columella and central cell region of the root.