Expression of HtKNOT1, a class I KNOX gene, overlaps cell layers and development compartments of differentiating cells in stems and flowers of Helianthus tuberosus


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In plant, post-embryonic development relies on the activities of indeterminate cell populations termed meristems, spatially clustered cell lineages, wherein a subset divides indeterminately. For correct growth, the plant must maintain a constant flow of cells through the meristem, where the input of dividing pluripotent cells offsets the output of differentiating cells. KNOTTED1-like homeobox (KNOX) genes are expressed in specific patterns in the plant meristems and play important roles in maintaining meristematic cell identity. We have analyzed the expression pattern of HtKNOT1, a class I KNOX gene of Helianthus tuberosus, in stems, inflorescence meristems, floral meristems and floral organs. HtKNOT1 is expressed in cambial cells, phloem cells and xylematic parenchyma within apical stem internodes, while in basal internodes HtKNOT1 expression was restricted to the presumptive initials and recently derived phloem cells. In the reproductive phase, HtKNOT1 mRNAs were detected in both the inflorescence and floral meristems as well within lateral organ primordia (i.e. floral bracts, petals, stamens and carpels). In more differentiated flowers, the expression of HtKNOT1 was restricted to developing ovules and pollen mother cells. HtKNOT1 may play a dual role being required to maintain the meristem initials as well as initiating differentiation and/or conferring new cell identity. In particular, it is possible that HtKNOT1 cooperates at floral level with additional factors that more specifically control floral organs and pollen development in H. tuberosus.