Molecular genetic analysis of TTG1-dependent cell fate pathways identifies a combinatorial Myb/bHLH transcription factor network in Arabidopsis
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The discovery of the Arabidopsis ttg1 mutant almost three decades ago provided a unique opportunity for the study of how several cell fates and organ identity pathways are co-regulated. Besides showing a lack of flavonoid based pigments, the pleiotropic ttg1 mutant is also deficient for the development of several epidermal characters including plant hair cells (trichomes), the non-hair cells of the root and the mucilage-secreting cells of the seed coat epidermis. Ectopic expression of the maize R bHLH transcriptional regulator of the flavonoid pigment pathway could completely suppress all the ttg1 mutant phenotypes, providing the first clue to the nature of the control mechanisms governing TTG1-dependent traits. Because it was established that a bHLH and a Myb protein are required for the regulation of anthocyanin pigment production in several plant species and an Arabidopsis Myb gene was necessary for trichome initiation, the existence of bHLH and Myb proteins that would regulate all the TTG1-dependent developmental pathways was hypothesized. This study works towards the elucidation of the transcriptional control mechanisms that regulate the TTG1-dependent developmental pathways. The identification and characterization of a key regulator, EGL3, uncovered the redundant nature of bHLH proteins operating under the TTG1 regulatory umbrella. As a result, bHLH regulators were assigned to all TTG1-dependent epidermal cell fate pathways and new roles for previously identified bHLH proteins were revealed. Roles suggested in the literature for Arabidopsis Myb factors suspected of regulating the flavonoid pigment pathway were at odds with findings from other plant models. Analysis of Myb loss-of-function RNAi lines and TTG1:GR and GL3:GR fusion lines presented here provides a clarified understanding of the regulation of anthocyanin biosynthesis by the Myb/bHLH/WDrepeat complex in Arabidopsis. Missing from the combinatorial complex model is the Myb component controlling the differentiation of the seed coat epidermis. Work presented here characterizes Myb5 as the primary Myb regulator of this differentiation pathway and defines a new role for TT2 as partially redundant with Myb5 for testa epidermis development. Myb5 also plays a minor role in trichome development and PA biosynthesis. Thus pleiotropy among the TTG1-dependent Myb regulators previously unobserved is first noted here. A more complete Myb/bHLH combinatorial transcription factor network model for the regulation of the TTG1-dependent pathways is proposed based on the results of work presented in this dissertation.