Development of eukaryotic organisms is controlled by transcription factors that trigger specific and global changes in gene expression programmes. In plants, MADS-domain transcription factors act as master regulators of developmental switches and organ specification. However, the mechanisms by which these factors dynamically regulate the expression of their target genes at different developmental stages are still poorly understood. Here, we characterize the dynamic relationship of chromatin accessibility, gene expression and DNA-binding of two MADS-domain proteins during Arabidopsis flower development. The developmental dynamics of DNA-binding of APETALA1 and SEPALLATA3 is largely independent of chromatin accessibility, and our findings suggest that AP1 acts as ‘pioneer factor’ that modulates chromatin accessibility, thereby facilitating access of other transcriptional regulators to their target genes. Our data provide a primer to the idea that cellular differentiation in plants can be associated to dynamic changes in chromatin accessibility, as consequence of the action of master transcription factors.
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