The shoot apical meristem, a small dome-shaped structure at the shoot apex, is responsible for the initiation of all post-embryonic shoot organs. Pluripotent stem cells within the meristem replenish themselves and provide daughter cells that become incorporated into lateral organ primordia around the meristem periphery. We have identified three novel regulators of shoot apical meristem activity in Arabidopsis thaliana that encode related AIL/PLT transcription factors: AINTEGUMENTA (ANT), AINTEGUMENTA-LIKE6 (AIL6)/PLETHORA3 (PLT3) and AINTEGUMENTA-LIKE7 (AIL7)/PLETHORA7 (PLT7). Loss of these genes results in plants that initiate only a few leaves prior to termination of shoot apical meristem activity. In 7-day-old ant ail6 ail7 seedlings, we observed reduced cell division in the meristem region, differentiation of meristematic cells and altered expression of the meristem regulators WUSCHEL (WUS), CLAVATA3 (CLV3) and SHOOT MERISTEMLESS (STM). Genetic experiments suggest that these three AIL genes do not act specifically in either the WUS/CLV or STM pathway regulating meristem function. Furthermore, these studies indicate that ANT, AIL6 and AIL7 have distinct functions within the meristem rather than acting in a strictly redundant manner. Our study thus identifies three new genes whose distinct functions are together required for continuous shoot apical meristem function.
© 2012 The Authors. The Plant Journal © 2012 Blackwell Publishing Ltd.