Lateral root formation is an important determinant of root system architecture. In Arabidopsis, lateral roots originate from pericycle cells, which undergo a program of morphogenesis to generate a new lateral root meristem. Despite its importance for root meristem organization, the onset of quiescent center (QC) formation during lateral root morphogenesis remains unclear. Here, we used live 3D confocal imaging to monitor cell organization and identity acquisition during lateral root development. Our dynamic observations revealed an early morphogenesis phase and a late meristem formation phase as proposed in the bi-phasic growth model. Establishment of lateral root QCs coincided with this developmental phase transition. QC precursor cells originated from the outer layer of stage II lateral root primordia, within which the SCARECROW (SCR) transcription factor was specifically expressed. Disrupting SCR function abolished periclinal divisions in this lateral root primordia cell layer and perturbed the formation of QC precursor cells. We conclude that de novo QC establishment in lateral root primordia operates via SCR-mediated formative cell division and coincides with the developmental phase transition.
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