Single-cell analysis of cell identity in the Arabidopsis root apical meristem: insights and opportunities


A fundamental question in developmental biology is how the progeny of stem cells become differentiated tissues. The Arabidopsis root is a tractable model to address this question due to its simple organization and defined cell lineages. In particular, the zone of dividing cells at the root tip, the root apical meristem, presents an opportunity to map the gene regulatory networks underlying stem cell niche maintenance, tissue patterning, and cell identity acquisition. To identify molecular regulators of these processes, studies over the last twenty years employed global profiling of gene expression patterns. However, these technologies are prone to information loss due to averaging gene expression signatures over multiple cell types and/or developmental stages. Recently developed high-throughput methods to profile gene expression at single-cell resolution have been successfully applied to plants. Here, we review insights from the first published single-cell mRNA sequencing and chromatin accessibility datasets generated from Arabidopsis roots. These papers successfully reconstruct developmental trajectories, phenotype cell identity mutants at unprecedented resolution, and reveal cell-type-specific responses to environmental stimuli. The experimental insight gained from Arabidopsis paves the way to profile roots from additional species.

J. Exp. Bot.