Maize (Zea mays) plants make different types of vegetative or reproductive branches during development. Branches develop from axillary meristems produced on the flanks of the vegetative or inflorescence shoot apical meristem. Among these branches are the spikelets, short grass-specific structures, produced by determinate axillary spikelet-pair and spikelet meristems. We investigated the mechanism of branching in maize by making transgenic plants expressing a native expressed endogenous auxin efflux transporter (ZmPIN1a) fused to yellow fluorescent protein and a synthetic auxin-responsive promoter (DR5rev) driving red fluorescent protein. By imaging these plants, we found that all maize branching events during vegetative and reproductive development appear to be regulated by the creation of auxin response maxima through the activity of polar auxin transporters. We also found that the auxin transporter ZmPIN1a is functional, as it can rescue the polar auxin transport defects of the Arabidopsis (Arabidopsis thaliana) pin1-3 mutant. Based on this and on the groundbreaking analysis in Arabidopsis and other species, we conclude that branching mechanisms are conserved and can, in addition, explain the formation of axillary meristems (spikelet-pair and spikelet meristems) that are unique to grasses.We also found that BARREN STALK1 is required for the creation of auxin response maxima at the flanks of the inflorescence meristem, suggesting a role in the initiation of polar auxin transport for axillary meristem formation. Based on our results, we propose a general model for branching during maize inflorescence development.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Plant Science