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Helariutta Group

Yrjö Helariutta

Professor

Sainsbury Laboratory
University of Cambridge
Bateman Street

Cambridge CB2 1LR


The Helariutta lab's research focuses on understanding the patterning processes involved in the development of plant vascular tissues. The vascular network provides plants with structural support and long-distance transport, meaning that vascular tissues must predictably differentiate to form continuous strands. To uncover the mechanisms that establish and maintain the vascular pattern, we take advantage of the Arabidopsis root tip, which has a stereotypical arrangement with procambial cells separating opposite phloem poles from a central xylem axis.

Over the past 15 years, research in the Helariutta lab and elsewhere has uncovered a central role for the phytohormones auxin and cytokinin in vascular patterning. Cytokinin acts to promote procambial proliferation at the expense of xylem, while auxin signalling is critical for the specification of the xylem tissues. Multiple feedback loops between the two hormones at the level of synthesis, metabolism, and signalling determine the size and arrangement of the vascular cylinder. We use genetic screens in sensitized backgrounds to identify novel components of these  networks, as well as other genetic factors regulating vascular development. In addition, we use microarrays and whole-transcriptome sequencing to investigate the interactions that define the networks and the changes that occur during the course of development.

Communication between cells has also emerged as an important factor in vascular development. Plasmodesmata bridge cell walls to connect the cytoplasm of neighbouring plant cells, transforming them into a continuous, though compartmentalized, space called the symplast. Phloem is rich in plasmodesmata-like structures. Using a genetic screen, we discovered a mutation in a callose synthase gene which led to excess callose deposition at plasmodesmata, disrupting intercellular connectivity and resulting in defects in vascular patterning. By expressing the mutated gene under various inducible promoters, we can selectively block plasmodesmatal connections at a chosen time and in specific tissues. This enables us to probe the role of the connections between particular tissue regions at different stages of development. We will use this technology to identify proteins that move across these channels and clarify their role in vascular development, as well as mapping the symplastic connections in the Arabidopsis root tip. We will also focus on phloem morphogenesis.

Key Publications

Furuta, K.M., Yadav,S.R., Lehesranta,S., Belevich, I., Miyashima, S., Heo, J., Vatén, A., Lindgren, O., De Rybel, B., Van Isterdael, G., Somervuo, P., Lichtenberger, R., Rocha, R., Thitamadee, S., Tähtiharju, S., Auvinen, P., Beeckman, T., Jokitalo, E., Helariutta, YArabidopsis NAC45/86 direct sieve element morphogenesis culminating in enucleation. Science, DOI: 10.1126/science.1253736.

Dettmer J, Ursache R, Campilho A, Miyashima S, Belevich I, O’Regan S, Mullendore DL, Yadav SR, Lanz C, Papagni A, Schneeberger K, Weigel D, Stierhof YD, Moritz T, Knoblauch M, Jokitalo E, Helariutta Y (2014) CHOLINE TRANSPORTER-LIKE1 is required for sieve plate development to mediate long-distance cell-to-cell communication. Nature Communications, in press.

Vatén A, Dettmer J, Wu S, Stierhof Y, Miyashima S, Yadav SR, Roberts CJ, Campilho A, Bulone V, Lichtenberger R, Lehesranta S, Mähönen AP, Kim JY, Sauer N, Scheres B, Carlsbecker A, Gallagher KL, Helariutta Y. (2011) Callose Biosynthesis Regulates Symplastic Trafficking During Root Development. Developmental Cell 21:1144-55.

Bishopp A, Help H, El-Showk S, Weijers D, Scheres B, Friml J, Benková E, Mähönen AP, Helariutta Y. (2011) A mutually inhibitory interaction between auxin and cytokinin specifies vascular pattern in roots. Current Biology 21:917-26.

Reviews

Furuta KM, Hellmann E, Helariutta Y. (2014) Molecular control of cell specification and cell differentiation during procambial development. Annu Rev Plant Biol. 65:607-38.

Miyashima S, Sebastian J, Lee JY, Helariutta Y. (2013) Stem cell function during plant vascular development. EMBO J. 32:178-93.

Related links:

Prof Helariutta's group in Helsinki

The Finnish Center of Excellence in the Molecular Biology of Primary Producers (2014-2019)

This figure presents some of the various markers used in our research. 

The first panel is a graphical illustration of the various cell types within the Arabidopsis thaliana primary root. The following images are optical, plastic and paraffin cross sections at the meristematic region of primary roots analyzed 5 days post germination, cropped to show the vascular cylinder and endodermis. The majority of these markers are in wild type and some are in mutant background.

 

Research supported by grants from: