Background: Shoots of all land plants have a radial pattern that can be considered to have an adaxial (central)-abaxial (peripheral) polarity. In Arabidopsis, gain-of-function alleles of PHAVOLUTA and PHABULOSA, members of the class III HD-ZIP gene family, result in adaxialization of lateral organs. Conversely, loss-of-function alleles of the KANADI genes cause an adaxialization of lateral organs. Thus, the class III HD-ZIP and KANADI genes comprise a genetic system that patterns abaxial-adaxial polarity in lateral organs produced from the apical meristem.
Results: We show that gain-of-function alleles of REVOLUTA, another member of the class III HD-ZIP gene family, are characterized by adaxialized lateral organs and alterations in the radial patterning of vascular bundles in the stem. The gain-of-function phenotype can be obtained by changing only the REVOLUTA mRNA sequence and without changing the protein sequence; this finding indicates that this phenotype is likely mediated through an interference with microRNA binding. Loss of KANADI activity results in similar alterations in vascular patterning as compared to REVOLUTA gain-of-function alleles. Simultaneous loss-of-function of PHABULOSA, PHAVOLUTA, and REVOLUTA abaxializes cotyledons, abolishes the formation of the primary apical meristem, and in severe cases, eliminates bilateral symmetry; these phenotypes implicate these three genes in radial patterning of both embryonic and postembryonic growth.
Conclusions: Based on complementary vascular and leaf phenotypes of class III HD-ZIP and KANADI mutants, we propose that a common genetic program dependent upon miRNAs governs adaxial-abaxial patterning of leaves and radial patterning of stems in the angiosperm shoot. This finding implies that a common patterning mechanism is shared between apical and vascular meristems.