Thomas, H., Van den Broeck, L., Spurney, R., Sozzani, R., and Frank, M. (2021). Gene regulatory networks for compatible versus incompatible grafts identify a role for SlWOX4 during junction formation. Plant Cell. https://doi.org/10.1101/2021.02.26.433082
Graft incompatibility is a poorly understood phenomenon that presents a serious agricultural challenge. Unlike immediate incompatibility that results in rapid death, delayed incompatibility can take months or even years to manifest, creating a significant economic burden for perennial crop production. To gain insight into the genetic mechanisms underlying this phenomenon, we developed a model system with Solanum lycopersicum ‘tomato’ and Capsicum annuum ‘pepper’ heterografting, which expresses signs of anatomical junction failure within the first week of grafting. By generating a detailed timeline for junction formation we were able to pinpoint the cellular basis for this delayed incompatibility. Furthermore, we infer gene regulatory networks for compatible self-grafts versus incompatible heterografts based on these key anatomical events, which predict core regulators for grafting. Finally, we delve into the role of vascular development in graft formation and validate SlWOX4 as a regulator for grafting in tomato. Notably, SlWOX4 is the first gene to be functionally implicated in vegetable crop grafting.
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