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Development. 2005 Mar;132(5):897-911. Epub 2005 Jan 26.

ULTRAPETALA1 encodes a SAND domain putative transcriptional regulator that controls shoot and floral meristem activity in Arabidopsis.

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  • 1Plant Gene Expression Center, USDA/UC Berkeley, 800 Buchanan Street, Albany, CA 94710, USA.


The higher-plant shoot apical meristem is a dynamic structure continuously producing cells that become incorporated into new leaves, stems and flowers. The maintenance of a constant flow of cells through the meristem depends on coordination of two antagonistic processes: self-renewal of the stem cell population and initiation of the lateral organs. This coordination is stringently controlled by gene networks that contain both positive and negative components. We have previously defined the ULTRAPETALA1 (ULT1) gene as a key negative regulator of cell accumulation in Arabidopsis shoot and floral meristems, because mutations in ULT1 cause the enlargement of inflorescence and floral meristems, the production of supernumerary flowers and floral organs, and a delay in floral meristem termination. Here, we show that ULT1 negatively regulates the size of the WUSCHEL (WUS)-expressing organizing center in inflorescence meristems. We have cloned the ULT1 gene and find that it encodes a small protein containing a B-box-like motif and a SAND domain, a DNA-binding motif previously reported only in animal transcription factors. ULT1 and its Arabidopsis paralog ULT2 define a novel small gene family in plants. ULT1 and ULT2 are expressed coordinately in embryonic shoot apical meristems, in inflorescence and floral meristems, and in developing stamens, carpels and ovules. Additionally, ULT1 is expressed in vegetative meristems and leaf primordia. ULT2 protein can compensate for mutant ULT1 protein when overexpressed in an ult1 background, indicating that the two genes may regulate a common set of targets during plant development. Downregulation of both ULT genes can lead to shoot apical meristem arrest shortly after germination, revealing a requirement for ULT activity in early development.

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