Vegetative leaves in Arabidopsis
are classified as either juvenile leaves or adult leaves based on their specific traits, such as leaf shape and the presence of abaxial trichomes. The timing of the juvenile-to-adult phase transition during vegetative development, called the vegetative phase change, is a critical decision for plants, as this transition is associated with crop yield, stress responses, and immune responses. Juvenile leaves are characterized by high levels of miR156/157, and adult leaves are characterized by high levels of miR156/157 targets, SQUAMOSA PROMOTER BINDING PROTEIN-LIKE (SPL) transcription factors. The discovery of this miR156/157-SPL module provided a critical tool for elucidating the complex regulation of the juvenile-to-adult phase transition in plants. In this review, we discuss how the traits of juvenile leaves and adult leaves are determined by the miR156/157-SPL module and how different factors, including embryonic regulators, sugar, meristem regulators, hormones, and epigenetic proteins are involved in controlling the juvenile-to-adult phase transition, focusing on recent insights into vegetative phase change. We also highlight outstanding questions in the field that need further investigation. Understanding how vegetative phase change is regulated would provide a basis for manipulating agricultural traits under various conditions.
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