Auxin Response Factors promote organogenesis by chromatin-mediated repression of the pluripotency gene SHOOTMERISTEMLESS.

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Specification of new organs from transit amplifying cells is critical for higher eukaryote development. In plants, a central stem cell pool maintained by the pluripotency factor SHOOTMERISTEMLESS (STM), is surrounded by transit amplifying cells competent to respond to auxin hormone maxima by giving rise to new organs. Auxin triggers flower initiation through Auxin Response Factor (ARF) MONOPTEROS (MP) and recruitment of chromatin remodelers to activate genes promoting floral fate. The contribution of gene repression to reproductive primordium initiation is poorly understood. Here we show that downregulation of the STM pluripotency gene promotes initiation of flowers and uncover the mechanism for STM silencing. The ARFs ETTIN (ETT) and ARF4 promote organogenesis at the reproductive shoot apex in parallel with MP via histone-deacetylation mediated transcriptional silencing of STM. ETT and ARF4 directly repress STM, while MP acts indirectly, through its target FILAMENTOUS FLOWER (FIL). Our data suggest that – as in animals- downregulation of the pluripotency program is important for organogenesis in plants.