Background: Asymmetric development of plant lateral organs initiates by partitioning of organ primordia into distinct domains along their adaxial/abaxial axis. A recent model proposes that a meristem-born signal, acting in a concentration-dependent manner, differentially activates PHABULOSA-like genes, which in turn suppress abaxial-promoting factors. As yet, no abaxial factors have been identified that when compromised give rise to adaxialized organs.
Results: Single mutants in either of the closely related genes KANADI1 (KAN1) or KANADI2 (KAN2) have little or no effect on plant morphology. However, in kan1 kan2 double mutant plants, there is a replacement of abaxial cell types by adaxial ones in most lateral organs. The alterations in polarity establishment are associated with expansion in the expression domain of the PHB-like genes and reduction in the expression of the previously described abaxial-promoting YABBY genes. Ectopic expression of either of the KANADI genes throughout leaf primordia results in dramatic transformation of adaxial cell types into abaxial ones, failure of lateral blade expansion, and vascular tissue formation.
Conclusion: The phenotypes of KANADI loss- and gain-of-function alleles suggest that fine regulation of these genes is at the core of polarity establishment. As such, they are likely to be targets of the PHB-mediated meristem-born signaling that patterns lateral organ primordia. PHB-like genes and the abaxial-promoting KANADI and YABBY genes appear to be expressed throughout primordia anlagen before becoming confined to their corresponding domains as primordia arise. This suggests that the establishment of polarity in plant lateral organs occurs via mutual repression interactions between ab/ad factors after primordium emergence, consistent with the results of classical dissection experiments.