Meristems of seed plants continuously produce new cells for incorporation into maturing tissues. A tightly controlled balance between cell proliferation in the center and cell differentiation at the periphery of the shoot meristem maintains its integrity. Here, we describe the role of three GRAS genes, named LOST MERISTEMS genes, in shoot apical meristem maintenance and axillary meristem formation. Under short photoperiods, the lom1 lom2 and lom1 lom2 lom3 mutants have arrested meristems characterized by an over-proliferation of meristematic cells and loss of polar organization. They also show early arrest of axillary meristem development and formation of ectopic meristematic cell clusters within the stem. LOM1 and LOM2 transcripts accumulate in the peripheral and basal zones of the SAM and in vascular strands. We show that LOM1 and LOM2 promote cell differentiation at the periphery of shoot meristems and help to maintain their polar organization.
© 2010 The Authors. The Plant Journal © 2010 Blackwell Publishing Ltd.