Wound-inducible WUSCHEL-RELATED HOMEOBOX 13 is required for callus growth and organ reconnection.
Highly efficient tissue repair is pivotal for surviving damage-associated stress. Plants generate callus upon injury to heal wound sites, yet regulatory mechanisms of tissue repair remain elusive. Here, we identified WUSCHEL-RELATED HOMEOBOX 13 (WOX13) as a key regulator of callus formation and organ adhesion in Arabidopsis (Arabidopsis thaliana). WOX13 belongs to an ancient subclade of the WOX family, and a previous study shows that WOX13 orthologs in the moss Physcomitrium patens (PpWOX13L) are involved in cellular reprogramming at wound sites. We found that the Arabidopsis wox13 mutant is totally defective in establishing organ reconnection upon grafting, suggesting that WOX13 is crucial for tissue repair in seed plants. WOX13 expression rapidly induced upon wounding, which was partly dependent on the activity of an AP2/ERF transcription factor, WOUND-INDUCED DEDIFFERENTIATION 1 (WIND1). WOX13 in turn directly upregulated WIND2 and WIND3 to further promote cellular reprogramming and organ regeneration. We also found that WOX13 orchestrates the transcriptional induction of cell wall-modifying enzyme genes, such as GLYCOSYL HYDROLASE 9Bs, PECTATE LYASE LIKEs and EXPANSINs. Furthermore, the chemical composition of cell wall monosaccharides was markedly different in the wox13 mutant. These data together suggest that WOX13 modifies cell wall properties, which may facilitate efficient callus formation and organ reconnection. Furthermore, we found that PpWOX13L complements the Arabidopsis wox13 mutant, suggesting that the molecular function of WOX13 is partly conserved between mosses and seed plants. This study provides key insights into the conservation and functional diversification of the WOX gene family during land plant evolution.