Plant growth and development depend on meristems, the plant reservoirs that
contain stem cells. When prompted by peptide signals, stem cells in the
meristem develop into any of the plant's organs.
Scientists at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (CSHL) have identified a protein
receptor on stem cells involved in plant development that can issue
different instructions about how to grow depending on what peptide (protein
fragment) activates it.
CSHL Professor David Jackson and colleagues recently discovered that FEA2, a
protein receptor they first identified in 2001 can trigger the release of
one of two distinct chemical messengers, CT2 or ZmCRN, depending on which of
two peptides, ZmCLE7 or ZmFCP1, switches it on. Receptors that release more
than one messenger are rare, and this is the first one discovered that plays
a role in crop production.
FEA2 is an important receptor in the CLAVATA signaling pathway, which is
known to activate stem cells. Jackson and his team believe that FEA2 is
bound to two different co-receptors, each of which acts as the "lock" for
one of the two peptide "keys."