The shoot apical meristem and cotyledons of higher plants are established during embryogenesis in the apex. Redundant CUP-SHAPED COTYLEDON 1 (CUC1) and CUC2 as well as SHOOT MERISTEMLESS (STM) of Arabidopsis are required for shoot apical meristem formation and cotyledon separation. To elucidate how the apical region of the embryo is established, we investigated genetic interactions among CUC1, CUC2 and STM, as well as the expression patterns of CUC2 and STM mRNA. Expression of these genes marked the incipient shoot apical meristem as well as the boundaries of cotyledon primordia, consistent with their roles for shoot apical meristem formation and cotyledon separation. Genetic and expression analyses indicate that CUC1 and CUC2 are redundantly required for expression of STM to form the shoot apical meristem, and that STM is required for proper spatial expression of CUC2 to separate cotyledons. A model for pattern formation in the apical region of the Arabidopsis embryo is presented.

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