Mutations in the WUSCHEL gene of Arabidopsis thaliana result in the development of shoots without juvenile leaves


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The vegetative growth of Arabidopsis thaliana can be divided into two phases. The transition from the juvenile (early) phase to the adult (later) phase is associated with changes in several morphological features of leaves, such as the shape of leaf blades, the number of trichomes and patterns of venation. In a screening of mutants with altered morphological identities of leaves, we found one which we named juvenile leafless and misshapen shoot apical meristem (jam). The mutation represented a new allele of the WUSCHEL (WUS) gene, and, in its presence, plants produced no juvenile leaves. Analysis of the morphology of mutant plants revealed that all the rosette leaves had characteristics of adult leaves. The formation of the first rosette leaf in the wus(jam) mutant was markedly delayed, and occurred at the almost same time as formation of the third or fourth leaf in wild-type plants. In the wild-type, these leaves correspond to the first adult leaves. Analysis by RT–PCR showed that transcripts of WUS accumulated in shoot apices and roots, but not in cotyledons and leaves. The present results suggest that the WUS gene controls the morphological traits of rosette leaves either directly or indirectly. In view of the predicted function of the WUS gene, namely maintenance of stem cells within the shoot apical meristem, we suggest that the lack of juvenile leaves in the mutant might have been caused by interruption of leaf initiation during the juvenile phase or by halting of an entire process of formation of juvenile leaves.