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J Plant Res. 2010 Jan;123(1):7-14. doi: 10.1007/s10265-009-0248-2. Epub 2009 Jun 9.

Coordination of leaf development via regulation of KNOX1 genes.

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Nara Institute of Science and Technology, Japan.


Class I KNOTTED1-LIKE HOMEOBOX (KNOX1) genes are expressed in the shoot apical meristem (SAM) to effect its formation and maintenance. KNOX1 genes are also involved in leaf shape control throughout angiosperm evolution. Leaves can be classified as either simple or compound, and KNOX1 expression patterns in leaf primordia are highly correlated with leaf shape; in most simple-leafed species, KNOX1 genes are expressed only in the SAM but not in leaf primordia, while in compound-leafed species they are expressed both in the SAM and leaf primordia. How can KNOX1 expression be maintained to a high degree in the SAM, but simultaneously be so variable in leaves? This dichotomy suggests that the processes of leaf and SAM development have been compartmentalized during evolution. Here, we introduce our findings regarding the regulation of expression of SHOOT MERISTEMLESS, a KNOX1 gene, together with a brief review of KNOX1 genes from an evolutionary viewpoint. We also present our findings regarding another aspect of KNOX1 regulation via a protein-protein interaction network involved in the natural variation in leaf shape. Both aspects of KNOX1 regulation could be utilized for fine-tuning leaf morphology during evolution without affecting the essential function of KNOX genes in the shoot.

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