The development of a plant leaf is a meticulously orchestrated sequence of events producing a complex organ comprising diverse cell types. The reticulate class of leaf variegation mutants displays contrasting pigmentation between veins and interveinal regions due to specific aberrations in the development of mesophyll cells. Thus, the reticulate mutants offer a potent tool to investigate cell-type-specific developmental processes. The discovery that most mutants are affected in plastid-localized, metabolic pathways that are strongly expressed in vasculature-associated tissues implicates a crucial role for the bundle sheath and their chloroplasts in proper development of the mesophyll cells. Here, we review the reticulate mutants and their phenotypic characteristics, with a focus on those in Arabidopsis thaliana. Two alternative models have been put forward to explain the relationship between plastid metabolism and mesophyll cell development, which we call here the supply and the signaling hypotheses. We critically assess these proposed models and discuss their implications for leaf development and bundle sheath function in C3 species. The characterization of the reticulate mutants supports the significance of plastid retrograde signaling in cell development and highlights the significance of the bundle sheath in C3 photosynthesis.
Keywords: bundle sheath; development; intercellular signaling; leaf variegation; mesophyll; plastid; reticulate.