In plants, vascular stem cells located in the cambium continuously undergo self-renewal and differentiation during secondary growth. Recent advancements in cell sorting techniques have enabled access to the transcriptional regulatory framework of cambial cells. However, mechanisms underlying the robust control of vascular stem cells remain unclear. Here, we identified a new cambium-related regulatory module through co-expression network analysis using multiple transcriptome datasets obtained from an ectopic vascular cell transdifferentiation system using Arabidopsis cotyledons, Vascular cell Induction culture System Using Arabidopsis Leaves (VISUAL). The cambium gene list included a gene encoding the transcription factor BES1/BZR1 Homolog 3 (BEH3), whose homolog BES1 negatively affects vascular stem cell maintenance. Interestingly, null beh3 mutant alleles showed a large variation in their vascular size, indicating that BEH3 functions as a stabilizer of vascular stem cells. Genetic analysis revealed that BEH3 and BES1 perform opposite functions in the regulation of vascular stem cells and the differentiation of vascular cells in the context of the VISUAL system. At the biochemical level, BEH3 showed weak transcriptional repressor activity and functioned antagonistically to other BES/ BZR members by competing for binding to the brassinosteroid response element. Furthermore, mathematical modeling suggested that the competitive relationship between BES/BZR homologs leads to the robust regulation of vascular stem cells.
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