Intercellular protein movement plays a critical role in animal and plant development. SHORTROOT (SHR) is a moving transcription factor essential for endodermis specification in the Arabidopsis root. Unlike diffusible animal morphogens, which form a gradient across multiple cell layers, SHR movement is limited to essentially one cell layer. However, the molecular mechanism is unknown. We show that SCARECROW (SCR) blocks SHR movement by sequestering it into the nucleus through protein-protein interaction and a safeguard mechanism that relies on a SHR/SCR-dependent positive feedback loop for SCR transcription. Our studies with SHR and SCR homologs from rice suggest that this mechanism is evolutionarily conserved, providing a plausible explanation why nearly all plants have a single layer of endodermis.
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