In plants, the shoot apical meristem (SAM) has two main functions, involving the production of all aerial organs on the one hand and self-maintenance on the other, allowing the production of organs during the entire post-embryonic life of the plant. Transcription factors, microRNA, hormones, peptides and forces have been involved in meristem function. Whereas phosphatidylinositol phosphates (PIPs) have been involved in almost all biological functions, including stem cell maintenance and organogenesis in animals, the processes in meristem biology to which PIPs contribute still need to be delineated.
Using biosensors for PI4P and PI(4,5)P2, the two most abundant PIPs at the plasma membrane, we reveal that meristem functions are associated with a stereotypical PIP tissue-scale pattern, with PI(4,5)P2 always displaying a more clear-cut pattern than PI4P. Using clavata3 and pin-formed1 mutants, we show that stem cell maintenance is associated with reduced levels of PIPs. In contrast, high PIP levels are signatures for organ-meristem boundaries. Interestingly, this pattern echoes that of cortical microtubules and stress anisotropy at the meristem. Using ablations and pharmacological approaches, we further show that PIP levels can be increased when the tensile stress pattern is altered. Conversely, we find that katanin mutant meristems, with increased isotropy of microtubule arrays and slower response to mechanical perturbations, exhibit reduced PIP gradients within the SAM. Comparable PIP pattern defects were observed in phospholipase A3β overexpressor lines, which largely phenocopy katanin mutants at the whole plant level.
Using phospholipid biosensors, we identified a stereotypical PIP accumulation pattern in the SAM that negatively correlates with stem cell maintenance and positively correlates with organ-boundary establishment. While other cues are very likely to contribute to the final PIP pattern, we provide evidence that the patterns of PIP, cortical microtubules and mechanical stress are positively correlated, suggesting that the PIP pattern, and its reproducibility, relies at least in part on the mechanical status of the SAM.