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ARS Home » Pacific West Area » Albany, California » Plant Gene Expression Center » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #357932

Research Project: Developmental and Environmental Signaling Pathways Regulating Plant Architecture

Location: Plant Gene Expression Center

Title: The CLV-WUS stem cell signaling pathway: a roadmap to crop yield optimization

item Fletcher, Jennifer

Submitted to: Plants
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 10/10/2018
Publication Date: 10/19/2018
Citation: Fletcher, J.C. 2018. The CLV-WUS stem cell signaling pathway: a roadmap to crop yield optimization. Plants. 7(4):87.

Interpretive Summary: All of the leaves, stems, flowers and fruits of plants are generated from a pool of stem cells at the growing tip, called the shoot meristem. Here I summarize work in the model plant Arabidopsis that has demonstrated a cell-to-cell signaling pathway consisting of the CLAVATA (CLV) and WUSCHEL (WUS) genes controls the number of stem cells in the shoot meristem. I describe how altering CLV and/or WUS gene activity increases flower, fruit and seed number in Arabidopsis as well as in corn, rice, tomato and oilseed plants, significantly elevating yield. This small set of genes is conserved in all plant species, suggesting the potential exists to improve yield traits in a multitude of other important crop plants and thereby enhance national food security.

Technical Abstract: The shoot apical meristem at the growing shoot tip acts a stem cell reservoir that provides cells to generate the entire above-ground architecture of higher plants. Many agronomic plant yield traits such as tiller number, flower number, fruit number and kernel row number are therefore defined by the activity of the shoot apical meristem and its derivatives, the floral meristems. Studies in the model plant Arabidopsis thaliana demonstrated that a molecular negative feedback loop called the CLAVATA (CLV)-WUSCHEL (WUS) pathway regulates stem cell maintenance in shoot and floral meristems. CLV-WUS pathway components are associated with quantitative trait loci (QTL) for yield traits in crop plants such as oilseed, tomato, rice and maize, and may have played a role in crop domestication. The conservation of these pathway components across the plant kingdom provides an opportunity to use cutting edge techniques such as genome editing to enhance yield traits in a wide variety of agricultural plant species.