Leafy head is a unique type of plant architecture found in some vegetable crops, with leaves bending inward to form a compact head. The genetic and molecular mechanisms underlying leafy head in vegetables remain poorly understood. We genetically fine-mapped and cloned a major quantitative trait locus controlling heading in lettuce. The candidate gene (LsKN1) is a homolog of knotted 1 (KN1) from Zea mays Complementation and CRISPR/Cas9 knockout experiments confirmed the role of LsKN1 in heading. In heading lettuce, there is a CACTA-like transposon inserted into the first exon of LsKN1 (LsKN1▽). The transposon sequences act as a promoter rather than an enhancer and drive high expression of LsKN1▽. The enhanced expression of LsKN1▽ is necessary but not sufficient for heading in lettuce. Data from ChIP-sequencing, electrophoretic mobility shift assays, and dual luciferase assays indicate that the LsKN1▽ protein binds the promoter of LsAS1 and down-regulates its expression to alter leaf dorsoventrality. This study provides insight into plant leaf development and will be useful for studies on heading in other vegetable crops.
Keywords: dorsoventrality; leaf development; leafy head; transposon.