The aerial structure of higher plants is generated dynamically throughout the life cycle through the activity of stem cells that are located at the growing shoot tip, the apical meristem. The stem cells continuously divide to renew themselves and provide cells for leaf, stem and flower formation. Stem cell maintenance is governed by intercellular communication between the apical stem cells and the underlying organizing centre. Recent advances have been made in understanding the mechanisms that induce shoot stem cell identity, and that control the position and size of the organizing centre. Elements such as chromatin remodeling factors, transcription factors and microRNAs are newly implicated in these regulatory processes. These advances provide a framework for our understanding of how signals are integrated to specify and position the stem cell niche in the shoot apical meristem.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
The authors acknowledge support for their work on stem cells from the US–Israel Bi-national Agricultural Research and Development Fund (BARD), the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the US Department of Agriculture (USDA).