Submitted to: Bioessays
Publication Type: Review Article
Publication Acceptance Date: November 4, 2001
Publication Date: January 1, 2002
Interpretive Summary: This article is a summary of recent advances in our understanding of post-embryonic development in higher plants. I emphasize the genetic and molecular mechanisms that control the activities of group of cells, called meristems, at the growing tips of the plant. My review includes discussions of how the shoot meristem is organized, how cells in the meristem coordinate their division with their behavior, and how specific cell division patterns on the edges of the meristem enable organs such as leaves and flowers to develop.
Technical Abstract: A unique feature of flowering plants is their ability to produce organs continuously, for hundreds of years in some species, from actively growing tips called apical meristems. All plants possess at least one form of apical meristem, whose cells are functionally analogous to animal stem cells because they can generate specialized organs and tissues. The shoot apical meristem of angiosperm plants acts as a continuous source of pluripotent stem cells, whose descendents become incorporated into organ primordia and acquire different fates. Recent studies are unveiling some of the molecular pathways that specify stem cell fate in the center of the shoot apical meristem, that confer organ founder cell fate on the periphery, and that connect meristem patterning elements with events at the cellular level. The results are providing important insights into the mechanisms through which shoot apical meristems integrate cell fate decisions with cellular proliferation and global regulation of growth and development.