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Curr Top Dev Biol. 2013;105:125-52. doi: 10.1016/B978-0-12-396968-2.00005-1.

Vegetative phase change and shoot maturation in plants.

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Department of Biology, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA.


As a plant shoot develops, it produces different types of leaves, buds, and internodes, and eventually acquires the capacity to produce structures involved in sexual reproduction. Morphological and anatomical traits that change in coordinated fashion at a predictable time in vegetative development allow this process to be divided into several more-or-less discrete phases; the transition between these phases is termed "vegetative phase change." Vegetative phase change is regulated by a decrease in the expression of the related microRNAs, miR156, and miR157, which act by repressing the expression of squamosa promoter binding protein/SBP-like (SBP/SPL) transcription factors. SBP/SPL proteins regulate a wide variety of processes in shoot development, including flowering time and inflorescence development. Answers to long-standing questions about the relationship between vegetative and reproductive maturation have come from genetic analyses of the transcriptional and posttranscriptional regulatory networks in which these proteins are involved. Studies conducted over several decades indicate that carbohydrates have a significant effect on phase-specific leaf traits, and recent research suggests that sugar may be the leaf signal that promotes vegetative phase change.


Flowering time; Heteroblasty; Heterochrony; Phase change; SBP; SPL; Shoot morphogenesis; miR156; miR172

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