Leaf development and evolution

Curr Top Dev Biol. 2019:131:109-139. doi: 10.1016/bs.ctdb.2018.11.006. Epub 2018 Dec 19.


Plant leaves are differentiated organs that arise sequentially from a population of pluripotent stem cells at the shoot apical meristem (SAM). There is substantial diversity in leaf shape, much of which depends on the size and arrangement of outgrowths at the leaf margin. These outgrowths are generated by a patterning mechanism similar to the phyllotactic processes producing organs at the SAM, which involves the transcription factors CUP-SHAPED COTYLEDON and the phytohormone auxin. In the leaf, this patterning mechanism creates sequential protrusions and indentations along the margin. The size, shape, and distribution of these protrusions also depend on the overall growth of the leaf lamina. Globally, growth is regulated by a complex genetic network controlling the distribution of cell proliferation and the timing of differentiation. Evolutionary changes in margin form arise from changes in two different classes of homeobox genes that modify the outcome of marginal patterning in diverse ways, and are under intense investigation.

Keywords: Brassicaceae; Comparative development; Gene regulatory evolution; Growth; Leaf shape diversity; Margin development.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Biological Evolution*
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Plant
  • Gene Regulatory Networks*
  • Meristem / genetics
  • Meristem / growth & development*
  • Plant Leaves / genetics
  • Plant Leaves / growth & development*
  • Plant Proteins / genetics*


  • Plant Proteins