Nitrate Defines Shoot Size through Compensatory Roles for Endoreplication and Cell Division in Arabidopsis thaliana
Precise coordination of cell expansion and cell proliferation underlies growth in multicellular organisms. In addition to endogenous developmental programs, external environmental signals are integrated to modulate organ growth in plants. Nitrate is a nitrogen nutrient that can act as a potent signal to modulate shoot growth, yet the molecular mechanisms involved are largely unexplored in Arabidopsis thaliana or other plant species. Herein, we show that nitrate regulates vegetative growth by modulating cell size and endoreplication. We identified the LGO gene, a CDK inhibitor, as a key cell cycle regulatory factor influencing ploidy and cell-size depending on external nitrate. Nitrate induces LGO gene expression as early as 3 days after germination in epidermal and mesophyll cell layers, which undergo endoreplication to increment DNA content and cell size. Our results support a dual role for LGO on endoreplication and cell expansion. Surprisingly, although endoreplication and cell size are greatly reduced in lgo-2 mutant plants and increased in LGO-OX plants, cotyledon size remains unchanged relative to wild type and is set by the amount of nitrate. In lgo-2 mutant plants where cells are unable to endoreplicate fully, cotyledon organ size is achieved through cell division. We conclude nitrate generally controls cotyledon and leaf size by increasing ploidy levels and cell expansion but that cell division can substitute for endoreplication without affecting final organ size or growth in plants.
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