A defining feature of plant leaves is their flattened shape. This shape depends on an antagonism between the genes that specify adaxial (top) and abaxial (bottom) tissue identity; however, the molecular nature of this antagonism remains poorly understood. Class III homeodomain leucine zipper (HD-ZIP) transcription factors are key mediators in the regulation of adaxial-abaxial patterning. Their expression is restricted adaxially during early development by the abaxially expressed microRNA (MIR)165/166, yet the mechanism that restricts MIR165/166 expression to abaxial leaf tissues remains unknown. Here, we show that class III and class II HD-ZIP proteins act together to repress MIR165/166 via a conserved cis-element in their promoters. Organ morphology and tissue patterning in plants, therefore, depend on a bidirectional repressive circuit involving a set of miRNAs and its targets.
Keywords: MIR165/166; class II HD-ZIP; class III HD-ZIP; leaf morphogenesis; organ patterning.