Plants show leaf form alteration in response to changes in the surrounding environment, and this phenomenon is called heterophylly. Although heterophylly is seen across plant species, the regulatory mechanisms involved are largely unknown. Here, we investigated the mechanism underlying heterophylly in Rorippa aquatica (Brassicaceae), also known as North American lake cress. R. aquatica develops pinnately dissected leaves in submerged conditions, whereas it forms simple leaves with serrated margins in terrestrial conditions. We found that the expression levels of KNOTTED1-LIKE HOMEOBOX (KNOX1) orthologs changed in response to changes in the surrounding environment (e.g., change of ambient temperature; below or above water) and that the accumulation of gibberellin (GA), which is thought to be regulated by KNOX1 genes, also changed in the leaf primordia. We further demonstrated that exogenous GA affects the complexity of leaf form in this species. Moreover, RNA-seq revealed a relationship between light intensity and leaf form. These results suggest that regulation of GA level via KNOX1 genes is involved in regulating heterophylly in R. aquatica. The mechanism responsible for morphological diversification of leaf form among species may also govern the variation of leaf form within a species in response to environmental changes.
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