The maize leaf is composed of a blade and a sheath, which are separated at the ligular region by a ligule and an auricle. Mutants homozygous for the recessive liguleless-1 (lg1) allele exhibit loss of normal ligule and auricle. The cellular events associated with development of these structures in both normal and liguleless plants are investigated with respect to the timing of cell division and differentiation. A new method is used to assess orientation of anticlinal division planes during development and to determine a division index based on recent epidermal cross-wall deposition. A normal leaf follows three stages of development: first is a preligule stage, in which the primordium is undifferentiated and dividing throughout its length. This stage ends when a row of cells in the preligule region divides more rapidly in both transverse and longitudinal anticlinal planes. During the second stage, ligule and auricle form, blade grows more rapidly than sheath, divisions in the blade become exclusively transverse in orientation, and differentiation begins. The third stage is marked by rapid increase in sheath length. The leaf does not have a distinct basal meristem. Instead, cell divisions are gradually restricted to the base of the leaf with localized sites of increased division at the preligule region. Divisions are not localized to the base of the sheath until near the end of development. The liguleless-1 homozygote shows no alteration in this overall pattern of growth, but does show distinct alteration in the anticlinal division pattern in the preligule region. Two abnormal patterns are observed: either the increase in division rate at the preligule site is absent or it exhibits loss of all longitudinal divisions so that only transverse (or cell-file producing) divisions are present. This pattern is particularly apparent in developing adult leaves on older lg1 plants, in which sporadic ligule vestiges form. From these and results previously published (Becraft et al. (1990) Devl Biol. 14), we conclude that the information carried by the Lg1+ gene product acts earlier in development than formation of the ligule proper. We hypothesize that Lg1+ may be effective at the stage when the blade-sheath boundary is first determined.

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