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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2008 Sep 30;105(39):15196-201. doi: 10.1073/pnas.0805596105. Epub 2008 Sep 17.

sparse inflorescence1 encodes a monocot-specific YUCCA-like gene required for vegetative and reproductive development in maize.

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Section of Cell and Developmental Biology, University of California at San Diego, La Jolla, CA 92093, USA.


The plant growth hormone auxin plays a critical role in the initiation of lateral organs and meristems. Here, we identify and characterize a mutant, sparse inflorescence1 (spi1), which has defects in the initiation of axillary meristems and lateral organs during vegetative and inflorescence development in maize. Positional cloning shows that spi1 encodes a flavin monooxygenase similar to the YUCCA (YUC) genes of Arabidopsis, which are involved in local auxin biosynthesis in various plant tissues. In Arabidopsis, loss of function of single members of the YUC family has no obvious effect, but in maize the mutation of a single yuc locus causes severe developmental defects. Phylogenetic analysis of the different members of the YUC family in moss, monocot, and eudicot species shows that there have been independent expansions of the family in monocots and eudicots. spi1 belongs to a monocot-specific clade, within which the role of individual YUC genes has diversified. These observations, together with expression and functional data, suggest that spi1 has evolved a dominant role in auxin biosynthesis that is essential for normal maize inflorescence development. Analysis of the interaction between spi1 and genes regulating auxin transport indicate that auxin transport and biosynthesis function synergistically to regulate the formation of axillary meristems and lateral organs in maize.

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