In rice (Oryza sativa), the shoot-borne crown roots are the major root type and are initiated at lower stem nodes as part of normal plant development. However, the regulatory mechanism of crown root development is poorly understood. In this work, we show that a WUSCHEL-related Homeobox (WOX) gene, WOX11, is involved in the activation of crown root emergence and growth. WOX11 was found to be expressed in emerging crown roots and later in cell division regions of the root meristem. The expression could be induced by exogenous auxin or cytokinin. Loss-of-function mutation or downregulation of the gene reduced the number and the growth rate of crown roots, whereas overexpression of the gene induced precocious crown root growth and dramatically increased the root biomass by producing crown roots at the upper stem nodes and the base of florets. The expressions of auxin- and cytokinin-responsive genes were affected in WOX11 overexpression and RNA interference transgenic plants. Further analysis showed that WOX11 directly repressed RR2, a type-A cytokinin-responsive regulator gene that was found to be expressed in crown root primordia. The results suggest that WOX11 may be an integrator of auxin and cytokinin signaling that feeds into RR2 to regulate cell proliferation during crown root development
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