Tracing the Ephemeral

A novel reporter system can track the ever-changing levels of the plant signal auxin with great precision.

Hannah Waters
May 31, 2012

Auxin is a tiny signaling molecule—about the size of an amino acid—that coordinates plant growth and development. It is ephemeral: auxin appears and disappears quickly throughout all plant tissues, moving between cells to deliver its messages. The most common tool for measuring auxin, DR5-GFP, is not very sensitive to the molecule’s rapid flux, in part because GFP (green fluorescent protein) is a slow-maturing reporter.

Teva Vernoux and colleagues at the University of Lyon have created a tool to track the elusive molecule, dubbed DII-VENUS. Auxin controls gene expression by initiating the degradation of Aux/IAA proteins, nuclear proteins that inhibit transcription factors from activating auxin’s target genes. The researchers expressed a fast-maturing version of a yellow fluorescent protein, VENUS, by fusing it to the auxin response domain of the Aux/IAA proteins. Thus, when auxin binds Aux/IAA, VENUS’s glow also disappears.

Tracing the disappearance of VENUS, however, is “one of its...

DR5-GFP 1.5–2 hours De novo GFP synthesis Appearance Less dynamic
DII-VENUS 6.5 minutes Aux/IAA degradation Fade More dynamic