Inflorescence branching in the grasses controls the number of florets and hence the number of seeds. Recent data on the underlying genetics come primarily from rice and maize, although new data are accumulating in other systems as well. This review focuses on a window in developmental time from the production of primary branches by the inflorescence meristem through to the production of glumes, which indicate the transition to producing a spikelet. Several major developmental regulatory modules appear to be conserved among most or all grasses. Placement and development of primary branches are controlled by conserved auxin regulatory genes. Subtending bracts are repressed by a network including TASSELSHEATH4, and axillary branch meristems are regulated largely by signaling centers that are adjacent to but not within the meristems themselves. Gradients of SQUAMOSA-PROMOTER BINDING-like and APETALA2-like proteins and their microRNA regulators extend along the inflorescence axis and the branches, governing the transition from production of branches to production of spikelets. The relative speed of this transition determines the extent of secondary and higher order branching. This inflorescence regulatory network is modified within individual species, particularly as regards formation of secondary branches. Differences between species are caused both by modifications of gene expression and regulators and by presence or absence of critical genes. The unified networks described here may provide tools for investigating orphan crops and grasses other than the well-studied maize and rice.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2518-2533
Number of pages16
JournalPlant Cell
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 2022


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