A class I KNOX gene from the palm species Elaeis guineensis (Arecaceae) is associated with meristem function and a distinct mode of leaf dissection.
ABSTRACT Class I Knotted-like homeobox (KNOX) transcription factors are important regulators of shoot apical meristem function and leaf morphology by their contribution to dissected leaf development. Palms are of particular interest as they produce dissected leaves generated by a distinct mechanism compared with eudicots. The question addressed here was whether class I KNOX genes might be involved in meristem function and leaf dissection in palms. Here, we characterized the EgKNOX1 gene from oil palm (Elaeis guineensis, Arecaceae) and compared it with available sequences from other plant species using phylogenetic analysis. Gene expression pattern was investigated using reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) and in situ hybridization. Functional analysis was carried out by ectopic expression in Arabidopsis and rice. EgKNOX1 was orthologous to STM from Arabidopsis and to OSH1 from rice. It was expressed in the central zone of both vegetative and reproductive meristems. During leaf development, its expression was associated with plications from which the leaflets originate. Different modes of leaf dissection are seen to involve a similar class of genes to control meristematic activities, which govern the production of dissected morphologies.