Shoot development is reiterative: shoot apical meristems (SAMs) give rise to branches made of repeating leaf and stem units with new SAMs in turn formed in the axils of the leaves. Thus, new axes of growth are established on preexisting axes. Here we describe the formation of axillary meristems and floral meristems in Arabidopsis by monitoring the expression of the SHOOT MERISTEMLESS and AINTEGUMENTA genes. Expression of these genes is associated with SAMs and organ primordia, respectively. Four stages of axillary meristem development and previously undefined substages of floral meristem development are described. We find parallels between the development of axillary meristems and the development of floral meristems. Although Arabidopsis flowers develop in the apparent absence of a subtending leaf, the expression patterns of AINTEGUMENTA and SHOOT MERISTEMLESS RNAs during flower development suggest the presence of a highly reduced, "cryptic" leaf subtending the flower in Arabidopsis. We hypothesize that the STM-negative region that develops on the flanks of the inflorescence meristem is a bract primordium and that the floral meristem proper develops in the "axil" of this bract primordium. The bract primordium, although initially specified, becomes repressed in its growth.
Copyright 2000 Academic Press.