An Acyl-CoA N-Acyltransferase Regulates Meristem Phase Change and Plant Architecture in Barley

Walla, Agatha; Esse, G.W. van; Kirschner, Gwendolyn K.; Guo, Ganggang; Brünje, Annika; Finkemeier, Iris; Simon, Rüdiger; Korff, Maria von


The modification of shoot architecture and increased investment into reproductive structures is key for crop improvement and is achieved through coordinated changes in the development and determinacy of different shoot meristems. A fundamental question is how the development of different shoot meristems is genetically coordinated to optimize the balance between vegetative and reproductive organs. Here we identify the MANY NODED DWARF1 (HvMND1) gene as a major regulator of plant architecture in barley (Hordeum vulgare). The mnd1.a mutant displayed an extended vegetative program with increased phytomer, leaf, and tiller production but a reduction in the number and size of grains. The induction of vegetative structures continued even after the transition to reproductive growth, resulting in a marked increase in longevity. Using mapping by RNA sequencing, we found that the HvMND1 gene encodes an acyl-CoA N-acyltransferase that is predominately expressed in developing axillary meristems and young inflorescences. Exploration of the expression network modulated by HvMND1 revealed differential expression of the developmental microRNAs miR156 and miR172 and several key cell cycle and developmental genes. Our data suggest that HvMND1 plays a significant role in the coordinated regulation of reproductive phase transitions, thereby promoting reproductive growth and whole plant senescence in barley.