Nearly all plant development occurs post-embryonically. The above-ground portion of the plant is derived from the shoot meristem, which is established in the embryo and contains a small population of stem cells.
As these undifferentiated stem cells divide, progeny cells on the flanks of the meristem make a developmental switch toward a differentiated fate and become competent to form organ primordia.
We have taken a combined genetic, molecular and biochemical approach to identify the genes that regulate meristem development, and to understand the mechanisms by which their gene products function. Phenotypic analysis suggests that these genes regulate the switch from the undifferentiated fate to the more differentiated fate of organ primordia. Molecular efforts have revealed that several of these genes encode components of a receptor-mediated signal transduction pathway.
As very little is known about signaling transduction in plants, we want to exploit this system to provide a paradigm for receptor-mediated signaling.