DELLA genes restrict inflorescence meristem function independently of plant height

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DELLA proteins associate with transcription factors to control plant growth in response to gibberellin1. Semi-dwarf DELLA mutants with improved harvest index and decreased lodging greatly improved global food security during the ‘green revolution’ in the 1960–1970s2. However, DELLA mutants are pleiotropic and the developmental basis for their effects on plant architecture remains poorly understood. Here, we show that DELLA proteins have genetically separable roles in controlling stem growth and the size of the inflorescence meristem, where flowers initiate. Quantitative three-dimensional image analysis, combined with a genome-wide screen for DELLA-bound loci in the inflorescence tip, revealed that DELLAs limit meristem size in Arabidopsis by directly upregulating the cell-cycle inhibitor KRP2 in the underlying rib meristem, without affecting the canonical WUSCHEL-CLAVATA meristem size regulators3. Mutation of KRP2 in a DELLA semi-dwarf background restored meristem size, but not stem growth, and accelerated flower production. In barley, secondary mutations in the DELLA gain-of-function mutant Sln1d4 also uncoupled meristem and inflorescence size from plant height. Our work reveals an unexpected and conserved role for DELLA genes in controlling shoot meristem function and suggests how dissection of pleiotropic DELLA functions could unlock further yield gains in semi-dwarf mutants.

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We thank P. Chandler, L. Østergaard, T.-P. Sun, N. Harberd, P. Doerner, V. Reddy, Miguel Á. Pérez Amador and the European Arabidopsis Stock Centre for plasmids and seeds, G. Calder for advice with confocal microscopy and B. Shi for help with vibratome sections. The work was supported by BBSRC grants BB/J007056/1, BB/J004588/1 and BB/M003825/1, and by a grant from the Ministerio de Educación, Cultura y Deporte, Spain (EX-2010-0491) to A.S.-M.

Author information

Author notes

    • Antonio Serrano-Mislata

    Present address: Instituto de Biología Molecular y Celular de Plantas, Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas-Universidad Politécnica de Valencia, 46022, Valencia, Spain


  1. Cell and Developmental Biology Department, John Innes Centre, Norwich Research Park, Norwich, NR4 7UH, UK

    • Antonio Serrano-Mislata
    • , Max Bush
    • , Katharina Schiessl
    •  & Robert Sablowski
  2. Crop Genetics Department, John Innes Centre, Norwich Research Park, Norwich, NR4 7UH, UK

    • Stefano Bencivenga
    •  & Scott Boden


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Conceptualization, A.S.-M., S.Bo. and R.S.; investigation, A.S.-M., S.Be., M.B., S.Bo. and K.S.; software, R.S.; formal analysis and data curation, A.S.-M. and R.S.; writing — original draft, A.S.-M. and R.S.; writing — review and editing, A.S.-M., S.Be., M.B., S.Bo., K.S. and R.S.; funding acquisition, R.S. and A.S.-M.; supervision, R.S.

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Robert Sablowski.

Electronic supplementary material

  1. Supplementary Information

    Supplementary Methods, Supplementary References, Supplementary Figures 1-6, Supplementary Table legends.

  2. Table 1

    High-confidence targets of RGAp:GFP-rga_17 identified by ChIP-seq in inflorescence apices.

  3. Table 2

    Manually annotated functional categories of selected RGAp:GFP-rgaD17 target genes identified by ChIP-seq in inflorescence apices.

  4. Table 3

    Source images and processing steps for data presented in each figure.

  5. Table 4

    Imaging data — filtering parameters, source data and statistical analysis for each figure.

  6. Table 5

    ChIP–PCR source data and statistics (related to Fig. 3c).