Delineation between distinct populations of cells is essential for organ development. Boundary formation is necessary for the maintenance of pluripotent meristematic cells in the shoot apical meristem (SAM) and differentiation of developing organs. Boundaries form between the meristem and organs, as well as between organs and within organs. Much of the research into the boundary gene regulatory network (GRN) has been carried out in the eudicot model Arabidopsis thaliana
. This work has identified a dynamic network of hormone and gene interactions. Comparisons with other eudicot models, like tomato and pea, have shown key conserved nodes in the GRN and species-specific alterations, including the recruitment of the boundary GRN in leaf margin development. How boundaries are defined in monocots, and in particular the grass family which contains many of the world’s staple food crops, is not clear. In this study, we review knowledge of the grass boundary GRN during vegetative development. We particularly focus on the development of a grass-specific within-organ boundary, the ligule, which directly impacts leaf architecture. We also consider how genome engineering and the use of natural diversity could be leveraged to influence key agronomic traits relative to leaf and plant architecture in the future, which is guided by knowledge of boundary GRNs.
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