Flowers come in a variety of colors, shapes and sizes. Despite this variety, flowers have a very stereotypical architecture, consisting of a series of sterile organs surrounding the reproductive structures. Arabidopsis, as the premier model system for molecular and genetic analyses of plant development, has provided a wealth of insights into how this architecture is specified. With the advent of the completion of the Arabidopsis genome sequence a decade ago, in combination with a rich variety of forward and reverse genetic strategies, many of the genes and regulatory pathways controlling flower initiation, patterning, growth and differentiation have been characterized. A central theme that has emerged from these studies is the complexity and abundance of both positive and negative feedback loops that operate to regulate different aspects of flower formation. Presumably, this considerable degree of feedback regulation serves to promote a robust and stable transition to flowering, even in the face of genetic or environmental perturbations. This review will summarize recent advances in defining the genes, the regulatory pathways, and their interactions, that underpin how the Arabidopsis flower is formed.
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