Plant architecture is dictated by precise control of meristematic activity. In the shoot, an imbalance in positive or negative maintenance signals can result in a fasciated or enlarged meristem phenotype. fasciated ear4 (fea4) is a semidwarfed mutant with fasciated ears and tassels as well as greatly enlarged vegetative and inflorescence meristems. We identified FEA4 as a bZIP transcription factor, orthologous to Arabidopsis thaliana PERIANTHIA. FEA4 was expressed in the peripheral zone of the vegetative shoot apical meristem and in the vasculature of immature leaves and conspicuously excluded from the stem cell niche at the tip of the shoot apical meristem and from incipient leaf primordia. Following the transition to reproductive fate, FEA4 was expressed throughout the entire inflorescence and floral meristems. Native expression of a functional YFP:FEA4 fusion recapitulated this pattern of expression. We used chromatin immunoprecipitation-sequencing to identify 4060 genes proximal to FEA4 binding sites, including ones that were potentially bound and modulated by FEA4 based on transcriptional changes in fea4 mutant ears. Our results suggest that FEA4 promotes differentiation in the meristem periphery by regulating auxin-based responses and genes associated with leaf differentiation and polarity, potentially in opposition to factors such as KNOTTED1 and WUSCHEL.
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