Coordinated polarity and differentiation of cells in the plane of a tissue layer are essential to the development of multicellular organisms. Arabidopsis thaliana root hairs and trichomes provide model systems to study the pathways that control planar polarity and cell fate specification in plants. A concentration gradient of the plant hormone auxin provides an instructive cue that coordinates polar assembly of signalling complexes at plasma membranes of root epidermal cells; however, knowledge about additional players and cytoskeletal effectors driving cell polarization prior to hair emergence remains limited. On the other hand, epidermal cell fate specification is controlled by a well-characterized gene network of transcription factors that translate positional signals and cell-to-cell communication into tissue-wide patterning. Yet, new components are continuously found to interact with the patterning pathway, shedding light on its connections with diverse developmental processes.
This thesis presents the SABRE (SAB) gene as a novel player in planar polarity establishment and root epidermal patterning. SAB is a large protein with sequence similarity to proteins present in all eukaryotes and affects planar polarity as well as orientation of cell divisions and cortical microtubules. Genetic interaction with the microtubule-associated protein gene CLASP further supports involvement of SAB in microtubule arrangement, suggesting a role for this gene in cytoskeletal organisation. Strikingly, SAB also interacts genetically with ACTIN7 (ACT7), and both ACT7 and its modulator ACTIN INTERACTING PROTEIN 1-2 (AIP1-2) contribute to planar polarity of root hair positioning. Cell-file specific expression of AIP1-2 depends on the epidermal-patterning regulator WEREWOLF (WER), revealing a connection between actin organization, planar polarity and cell fate specification. Consistent with this finding, SAB also functions in patterning of the root epidermis by stabilizing cell fate acquisition upstream of the core patterning pathway. These results unveil new roles for SAB in planar polarity and epidermal patterning and suggest that organization of the microtubule and the actin cytoskeleton are important to both planar polarity establishment and cell fate specification.