Tomato is a major crop plant and several mutants have been selected for breeding but also for isolating important genes that regulate flowering and sympodial growth. Besides, current research in developmental biology aims at revealing mechanisms that account for diversity in inflorescence architectures. We therefore found timely to review the current knowledge of the genetic control of flowering in tomato and to integrate the emerging network into modeling attempts. We developed a kinetic model of the tomato inflorescence development where each meristem was represented by its "vegetativeness" (V), reflecting its maturation state toward flower initiation. The model followed simple rules: maturation proceeded continuously at the same rate in every meristem (dV); floral transition and floral commitment occurred at threshold levels of V; lateral meristems were initiated with a gain of V (ΔV) relative to the V level of the meristem from which they derived. This last rule created a link between successive meristems and gave to the model its zigzag shape. We next exploited the model to explore the diversity of morphotypes that could be generated by varying dV and ΔV and matched them with existing mutant phenotypes. This approach, focused on the development of the primary inflorescence, allowed us to elaborate on the genetic regulation of the kinetic model of inflorescence development. We propose that the lateral inflorescence meristem fate in tomato is more similar to an immature flower meristem than to the inflorescence meristem of Arabidopsis. In the last part of our paper, we extend our thought to spatial regulators that should be integrated in a next step for unraveling the relationships between the different meristems that participate to sympodial growth.
Keywords: AGL24; Solanum lycopersicum; biological model; flowering; morphogenesis; sympodial growth.