Leaf shape is one of the key determinants of plant architecture. Leaf shape also affects the amount of sunlight captured and influences photosynthetic efficiency; thus, it is an important agronomic trait in crop plants. Understanding the molecular mechanisms governing leaf shape is a central issue of plant developmental biology and agrobiotechnology. Here, we characterized the narrow-leaf phenotype of FL90, a linkage tester line of rice (Oryza sativa). Light and scanning electron microscopic analyses of FL90 leaves revealed defects in the development of marginal regions and a reduction in the number of longitudinal veins. The narrow-leaf phenotype of FL90 shows a two-factor recessive inheritance and is caused by the loss of function of two WUSCHEL-related homeobox genes, NAL2 and NAL3 (NAL2/3), which are duplicate genes orthologous to maize NS1 and NS2 and to Arabidopsis PRS. The overexpression of NAL2/3 in transgenic rice plants results in wider leaves containing increased numbers of veins, suggesting that NAL2/3 expression regulates leaf width. Thus, NAL2/3 can be used to modulate leaf shape and improve agronomic yield in crop plants.
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