Plant organs are initiated as primordial outgrowths, and require controlled cell division and differentiation to achieve their final size and shape. Superimposed on this is another developmental program that orchestrates the switch from vegetative to reproductive to senescence stages in the life cycle. These require sequential function of heterochronic regulators. Little is known regarding the coordination between organ and organismal growth in plants. The TCP gene family encodes transcription factors that control diverse developmental traits, and a subgroup of class II TCP genes regulate leaf morphogenesis. Absence of these genes results in large, crinkly leaves due to excess division, mainly at margins. It has been suggested that these class II TCPs modulate the spatio-temporal control of differentiation in a growing leaf, rather than regulating cell proliferation per se. However, the link between class II TCP action and cell growth has not been established. As loss-of-function mutants of individual TCP genes in Arabidopsis are not very informative due to gene redundancy, we generated a transgenic line that expressed a hyper-activated form of TCP4 in its endogenous expression domain. This resulted in premature onset of maturation and decreased cell proliferation, leading to much smaller leaves, with cup-shaped lamina in extreme cases. Further, the transgenic line initiated leaves faster than wild-type and underwent precocious reproductive maturation due to a shortened adult vegetative phase. Early senescence and severe fertility defects were also observed. Thus, hyper-activation of TCP4 revealed its role in determining the timing of crucial developmental events, both at the organ and organism level.
© 2011 The Authors. The Plant Journal © 2011 Blackwell Publishing Ltd.