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Exploring the Cellular Basis of Polar Auxin Transport
Angus Murphy, Department of Horticulture and Landscape Architecture, Purdue University
Plant form is dependent on the establishment of polarity: growth takes place in apical regions of roots and shoots in response to basic developmental programming which is then modulated by environmental cues. Plants can also undergo tropic growth in order to adapt to changes in light, orientation, or surface contact. However, even when tropic responses alter the direction of growth, the overall polarity of the plant remains intact.
Biochemical and physiological evidence suggests that the polarity of plant growth is regulated at the cellular level and involves components of the cytoskeleton, plasma membrane, and cell wall. Plant cells must therefore possess mechanisms to asymmetrically direct proteins to specific cell surfaces. These mechanisms appear to be regulated by developmental and environmental cues.
Auxin, or indole acetic acid (IAA), is an essential, multifunctional plant hormone that influences virtually every aspect of plant growth and development. Although auxin-dependent growth is evident in all plant tissues, it is synthesized primarily in apical regions of the shoot and is then transported in a polar fashion to other sites. When auxin reaches the root apex, it is redistributed away from the root tip through cortical and epidermal tissues (Lomax, 1995). In tropic growth, auxin is diverted laterally to one side of the plant stem or root; therefore, As a result, the cells in that portion of the stem or root below the point of redistribution elongate. The result is bending toward light, gravitational pull, or a potential point of attachment.
Auxin is taken up into cells by diffusion augmented by a proton co-transporter (Swarup et al., 2001), but can only exit from cells via basally-localized efflux carriers (reviewed in Muday and DeLong, 2001). Mutants deficient in auxin transport generally display aberrant morphology. Auxin is thus thought to maintain cellular polarity and, as a result, its own asymmetric transport mechanism. The genes that encode the auxin efflux carriers have been identified and are generally referred to as PIN genes, for the pin-formed phenotype resulting from mutations of these genes (reviewed in Palme and Gälweiler, 1999). Biochemical evidence suggests that the PIN proteins effectively transport auxin only when functionally associated with other proteins. A number of proteins that appear to modulate PIN-associated auxin transport have recently been identified (reviewed in Muday and Murphy, 2002). For a more detailed explanation of auxin function and transport, please refer to Ch 19.
An asymmetric targeting mechanism for transport proteins
Recent cellular localization studies have shown that PIN1 cycles between the plasma membrane and an internal compartment in membrane vesicles associated with actin cytoskeletal fibers (Steinmann et al., 1999; Geldner et al., 2001). The role of actin in this process may be to provide "tracks" for vesicle movement and to fix the efflux carriers in a specific location after delivery to the membrane surface. When chemical agents are used to disrupt cytoskeletal tracking, auxin transport inhibitors prevent relocalization of PIN proteins on the plasma membrane. This suggests that the proteins that bind auxin transport inhibitors may provide a bridge between the efflux carriers and the actin network used to transport and localize these complexes. Rapid vesicular cycling is now thought to redistribute carriers to a new site when auxin transport polarity is changed by environmental stimuli, such as light or gravity. Therefore, direct analysis of the proteins that bind auxin efflux inhibitors, and examination of endogenous molecules, such as flavonoids, that may regulate auxin efflux in vivo is crucial to understanding how the PIN cycling apparatus functions.
There is a striking similarity between the cycling of PIN transporters and the mechanism that mediates the movement of glucose transporters to the plasma membrane in mammalian insulin-responsive tissues (Muday and Murphy, 2002). In those tissues, when blood glucose levels rise, an insulin-induced signaling cascade causes endomembrane vesicles containing the GLUT4 glucose transporter to be dispatched asymmetrically to the plasma membrane (reviewed in Baumann and Saltiel, 2001; Simpson et al., 2001). Changes in protein phosphorylation states activates some components of GLUT4 secretory vesicles (GSVs) and deactivates anchoring components that normally repress movement. The net result is relocation of transporters from internal compartments to docking sites on the plasma membrane. A diagrammatic comparison of the mammalian GLUT4 system with the proposed PIN cycling system in Arabidopsis is shown in Figure 1.
Many of the components of the mammalian GLUT4 inducible vesicle secretion mechanism have orthologs in Arabidopsis, a number of which have been directly or indirectly implicated in the regulation of auxin transport and/or the asymmetric distribution of the PIN1 protein. For example, mutations in kinase and phosphatase genes homologous to their mammalian GSV counterparts results in growth defects, altered auxin transport, and altered sensitivity to auxin transport inhibitors (Bennett et al, 1995; Christensen et al., 2000; Benjamins et al., 2001; Reruère et al., 1999, Rashotte et al., 2001). Other Arabidopsis proteins known to associate with the PIN proteins or to be implicated in auxin transport are also homologs of important components of the GLUT4 cycling mechanism (reviewed in Muday and Murphy, 2002). One of the most important of these may be the apparent Arabidopsis counterpart of the mammalian Insulin Responsive Aminopeptidase (IRAP), which is essential for mammalian GLUT4 cycling. IRAP and its Arabidopsis homolog, AtAPM1, have a high degree of sequence similarity, have similar membrane orientations and enzymatic activities, and undergo unique processing of their carboxy-terminal domains when secreted to the plasma membrane (Murphy et al., 2000; 2002). Recently, we have shown that treatment of Arabidopsis seedlings with IRAP inhibitors results in delocalization of PIN1 from the plasma membrane and strong localization of AtAPM1 to the basal ends of auxin-conducting cells. Natural flavonoid inhibitors of AtAPM1 have been found to alter PIN1 localization as well.
Insulin signaling is a key component of vesicle targeting in the GLUT4 localization system. For vesicle mediated targeting of IAA transport proteins to be truly parallel to the GLUT4 model, it is necessary to ask what signal(s) might control the localization of auxin transport proteins. The simplest possibility is that auxin acts as the signal to stimulate its own transport. Auxin has been reported to stimulate IAA transport (Rayle et al., 1969) and is generally thought to be required for the establishment of both embryonic polarity (Geldner et al., 2000) and auxin transport pathways themselves ( reviewed by Berleth and Sachs, 2001).
The focus of the research in my lab is to dissect the interactions of the potential components of the PIN vesicular cycling apparatus in Arabidopsis. We are currently analyzing the localization of PIN proteins in mutants lacking various components of the vesicular cycling mechanism in order to better understand the asymmetric targeting of membrane proteins and polar growth in plants. We are complementing the localization studies with biochemical assays of protein-protein interactions. It is my hope that these experiments will help us determine the applicability of the GLUT4 cycling model to plant growth and development.
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