Authors: Nishii, Kanae; Kuwabara, Asuka; Nagata, Toshiyuki
Publication: Annals of Botany
Year: 2004
Genera: Monophyllaea, Streptocarpus

Background and aims Unifoliate species of Gesneriaceae are unique, as they bear only one leaf throughout their life history. The development of this leaf (termed a macrocotyledon) derived from one of two cotyledons is intriguing. The other cotyledon does not develop further and is termed a microcotyledon. This process of unequal cotyledon development is termed anisocotyly. In this study the process of macrocotyeldon formation was studied and the effects of plant hormones on the macrocotyledon development were investigated.

Methods Streptocarpus wendlandii was chosen as the main subject material, as it was found to be suitable for experimental studies in laboratory conditions. Morphological analyses were carried out with light and scanning electron microscopy. Plant hormones were applied exogenously.

Key results The macrocotyledon of S. wendlandii is produced through cell division activity in the basal meristem of the enlarging cotyledon. The newly developed region in the macrocotyledon displayed distinct morphological changes, including the formation of long, needle-shaped trichomes. The newly formed region was surrounded by lateral veins. No such change was observed in the microcotyledon. Furthermore, it was shown that development of anisocotyly is suppressed by the application of cytokinin, resulting in the formation of two nearly equal-sized cotyledons. Both cotyledons displayed macrocotyledon characteristics. This observation in S. wendlandii was confirmed using Monophyllaea glabra, another unifoliate species in the same family.

Conclusions It is proposed that developmental changes of the macrocotyledon have characteristics of a developmental phase-change, and cytokinins may be involved in its formation. These results are discussed in the light of current knowledge of phase-change transitions in plant vegetative development.