Arabidopsis thaliana floral meristems are determinate structures that produce a defined number of organs, after which cell division ceases. A new recessive mutant, carpel factory (caf), converts the floral meristems to an indeterminate state. They produce extra whorls of stamens, and an indefinite number of carpels. Thus, CAF appears to suppress cell division in floral meristems. The function of CAF is partially redundant with the function of the CLAVATA (CLV) and SUPERMAN (SUP) genes, as caf clv and caf sup double mutants show dramatically enhanced floral meristem over-proliferation. caf mutant plants also show other defects, including absence of axillary inflorescence meristems, and abnormally shaped leaves and floral organs. The CAF gene was cloned and found to encode a putative protein of 1909 amino acids containing an N-terminal DExH/DEAD-box type RNA helicase domain attached to a C-terminal RNaseIII-like domain. A very similar protein of unknown function is encoded by a fungal and an animal genome. Helicase proteins are involved in a number of processes, including specific mRNA localization and mRNA splicing. RNase III proteins are involved in the processing of rRNA and some mRNA molecules. Thus CAF may act through some type of RNA processing event(s). CAF gives rise to two major transcripts of 2.5 and 6.2 kb. In situ hybridization experiments show that CAF RNA is expressed throughout all shoot tissues.
The CLAVATA (CLV1 and CLV3) and SHOOT MERISTEMLESS (STM) genes specifically regulate shoot meristem development in Arabidopsis. CLV and STH appear to have opposite functions: c1v1 and Clv3 mutants accumulate excess undifferentiated cells in the shoot and floral meristem, while stm mutants fail to form the undifferentiated cells of the shoot meristem during embryonic development. We have identified a weak allele of stm (stm-2) that reveals STM is not only required for the establish- ment of the shoot meristem, but is also required for the continued maintenance of undifferentiated cells in the shoot meristem and for proper proliferation of cells in the floral meristem. We have found evidence of genetic interactions between the CLV and STM loci. clv1 and c1v3 mutations partially suppressed the stm-1 and stm-2 phenotypes, and were capable of suppression in a dominant fashion. clv stm double mutants and plants homozygous for stm but heterozygous for clv, while still lacking an embryonic shoot meristem, exhibited greatly enhanced postembryonic shoot and floral meristem development. Although stm phenotypes are recessive, stm mutations dominantly suppressed clv homozygous and heterozygous phenotypes. These results indicate that the stm phenotype is sensitive to the levels of CLV activity, while the clv phenotype is sensitive to the level of STM activity. We propose that these genes play related but opposing roles in the regulation of cell division and/or cell differentiation in shoot and floral meristems.