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Plant Cell. 2010 Feb;22(2):296-306. doi: 10.1105/tpc.109.072777. Epub 2010 Feb 23.

Out of the mouths of plants: the molecular basis of the evolution and diversity of stomatal development.

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  • 1Department of Biology, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington 98195, USA.


Stomata are microscopic valves on the plant epidermis that played a critical role in the evolution of land plants. Studies in the model dicot Arabidopsis thaliana have identified key transcription factors and signaling pathways controlling stomatal patterning and differentiation. Three paralogous Arabidopsis basic helix-loop-helix proteins, SPEECHLESS (SPCH), MUTE, and FAMA, mediate sequential steps of cell-state transitions together with their heterodimeric partners SCREAM (SCRM) and SCRM2. Cell-cell signaling components, including putative ligands, putative receptors, and mitogen-activated protein kinase cascades, orient asymmetric cell divisions and prevent overproduction and clustering of stomata. The recent availability of genome sequence and reverse genetics tools for model monocots and basal land plants allows for the examination of the conservation of genes important in stomatal patterning and differentiation. Studies in grasses have revealed that divergence of SPCH-MUTE-FAMA predates the evolutionary split of monocots and dicots and that these proteins show conserved and novel roles in stomatal differentiation. By contrast, specific asymmetric cell divisions in Arabidopsis and grasses require unique molecular components. Molecular phylogenetic analysis implies potential conservation of signaling pathways and prototypical functions of the transcription factors specifying stomatal differentiation.

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