Abstract: Stem cells play important roles in animal and plant biology as they sustain morphogenesis and tissue replenishment following aging or injuries. In plants, stem cells are embedded in multicellular structures called meristems and the formation of new meristems is essential for the plastic expansion of the highly branched shoot and root systems. In particular, axillary meristems that produce lateral shoots arise from the division of boundary domain cells at the leaf base. The CUP-SHAPED COTYLEDON ( CUC ) genes are major determinants of the boundary domain and are required for axillary meristem initiation. However, how axillary meristems get structured and how stem cells become established de novo remains elusive. Here, we show that two NGATHA-LIKE transcription factors, DPA4 and SOD7, redundantly repress CUC expression in the initiating axillary meristem. Ectopic boundary fate leads to abnormal growth and organisation of the axillary meristem and prevents de novo stem cell establishment. Floral meristems of the dpa4 sod7 double mutant show a similar delay in stem cell de novo establishment. Altogether, while boundary fate is required for the initiation of axillary meristems, our work reveals how it is later repressed to allow proper meristem establishment and de novo stem cell niche formation.

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