Several lines of evidence indicate that the adaxial leaf domain possesses a unique competence to form shoot apical meristems. Factors required for this competence are expected to cause a defect in shoot apical meristem formation when inactivated and to be expressed or active preferentially in the adaxial leaf domain. PINHEAD, a member of a family of proteins that includes the translation factor eIF2C, is required for reliable formation of primary and axillary shoot apical meristems. In addition to high-level expression in the vasculature, we find that low-level PINHEAD expression defines a novel domain of positional identity in the plant. This domain consists of adaxial leaf primordia and the meristem. These findings suggest that the PINHEAD gene product may be a component of a hypothetical meristem forming competence factor. We also describe defects in floral organ number and shape, as well as aberrant embryo and ovule development associated with pinhead mutants, thus elaborating on the role of PINHEAD in Arabidopsis development. In addition, we find that embryos doubly mutant for PINHEAD and ARGONAUTE1, a related, ubiquitously expressed family member, fail to progress to bilateral symmetry and do not accumulate the SHOOT MERISTEMLESS protein. Therefore PINHEAD and ARGONAUTE1 together act to allow wild-type growth and gene expression patterns during embryogenesis.