TERMINAL FLOWER1 Is a Mobile Signal Controlling Arabidopsis Architecture
Shoot meristems harbor stem cells that provide key growing points in plants, maintaining themselves and generating all above-ground tissues. Cell-to-cell signaling networks maintain this population, but how are meristem and organ identities controlled? TERMINAL FLOWER1 (TFL1) controls shoot meristem identity throughout the plant life cycle, affecting the number and identity of all above-ground organs generated; tfl1 mutant shoot meristems make fewer leaves, shoots, and flowers and change identity to flowers. We find that TFL1 mRNA is broadly distributed in young axillary shoot meristems but later becomes limited to central regions, yet affects cell fates at a distance. How is this achieved? We reveal that the TFL1 protein is a mobile signal that becomes evenly distributed across the meristem. TFL1 does not enter cells arising from the flanks of the meristem, thus allowing primordia to establish their identity. Surprisingly, TFL1 movement does not appear to occur in mature shoots of leafy (lfy) mutants, which eventually stop proliferating and convert to carpel/floral-like structures. We propose that signals from LFY in floral meristems may feed back to promote TFL1 protein movement in the shoot meristem. This novel feedback signaling mechanism would ensure that shoot meristem identity is maintained and the appropriate inflorescence architecture develops.