The phloem consists of sieve elements (SEs) and companion cells (CCs). Here we show that Dof-class transcription factors preferentially expressed in the phloem (phloem-Dofs) are not only necessary and sufficient for SE and CC differentiation, but also induce negative regulators of phloem development, CLAVATA3/EMBRYO SURROUNDING REGION-RELATED25 (CLE25), CLE26 and CLE45 secretory peptides. CLEs were perceived by BARELY ANY MERISTEM (BAM)-class receptors and CLAVATA3 INSENSITIVE RECEPTOR KINASE (CIK) co-receptors, and post-transcriptionally decreased phloem-Dof proteins and repressed SE and CC formation. Multiple mutations in CLE-, BAM- or CIK-class genes caused ectopic formation of SEs and CCs, producing an SE/CC cluster at each phloem region. We propose that while phloem-Dofs induce phloem cell formation, they inhibit excess phloem cell formation by inducing CLEs. Normal-positioned SE and CC precursor cells appear to overcome the effect of CLEs by reinforcing the production of phloem-Dofs through a positive feedback transcriptional regulation.
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