Grass Meristems II: Inflorescence Architecture, Flower Development and Meristem Fate

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Abstract

Plant development depends on the activity of various types of meristems that generate organs such as leaves and floral organs throughout the life cycle. Grass species produce complex inflorescences and unique flowers. The grass inflorescence is composed of different types of branches, including a specialized branch called a spikelet. The spikelet is a special unit of the inflorescence and forms one to several florets, depending on the species. In the floret, floral organs such as perianth organs, carpels and stamens are formed. In Arabidopsis, because the inflorescence meristem (IM) forms the floral meristems (FMs) directly on its flanks, the change of meristem fate is relatively simple. In contrast, in grasses, different types of meristem, such as the IM, the branch meristem (BM), the spikelet pair meristem (SPM) in some grasses, the spikelet meristem (SM) and the FM, are responsible for the elaboration of their complex inflorescences and flowers. Therefore, sequential changes of meristem fate are required, and a number of genes involved in the specification of the fate of each meristem have been identified. In this review, we focus on the following issues concerning the fate of the reproductive meristems in two grass species, maize (Zea mays) and rice (Oryza sativa): (i) meristem regulation during inflorescence development; (ii) specification and fate change of the BM and the SM; (iii) determinacy of the FM; and (iv) communication between the meristem and lateral organs.

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