At the shoot apex of plants is a small region known as the shoot apical meristem (SAM) that maintains a population of undifferentiated (stem) cells whilst providing cells for developing lateral organs and the stem. All aerial structures of the plant develop from the SAM post-embryogenesis, enabling plants to grow in a characteristic modular fashion with great phenotypic and developmental plasticity throughout their lifetime. The maintenance of the stem cell population is intimately balanced with cell recruitment into differentiating tissues through intercellular communication involving a complex signalling network. Recent studies have shown that diverse regulators function in SAM maintenance, many of which converge on the WUSCHEL (WUS) gene. In this review the diverse regulatory modules that function in SAM maintenance are discussed: transcriptional and epigenetic control, hormonal regulation, and the balance with organogenesis. The central role of WUS as an integrator of multiple signals is highlighted; in addition, accessory feedback loops emerge as a feature enabling dynamic regulation of the stem cell niche.
- chromatin remodelling
- stem cell