In this paper we describe the expression patterns of a family of homeobox genes in maize and their relationship to organogenic domains in the vegetative shoot apical meristem. These genes are related by sequence to KNOTTED1, a gene characterized by dominant neomorphic mutations which perturb specific aspects of maize leaf development. Four members of this gene family are expressed in shoot meristems and the developing stem, but not in determinate lateral organs such as leaves or floral organs. The genes show distinct expression patterns in the vegetative shoot apical meristem that together predict the site of leaf initiation and the basal limit of the vegetative ‘phytomer’ or segmentation unit of the shoot. These genes are also expressed in the inflorescence and floral meristems, where their patterns of expression are more similar, and they are not expressed in root apical meristems. These findings are discussed in relation to other studies of shoot apical meristem organization as well as possible commonality of homeobox gene function in the animal and plant kingdoms.

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