The grass family is one of the largest families in angiosperms and has evolved a characteristic inflorescence morphology, with complex branches and specialized spikelets. The origin and development of the highly divergent inflorescence architecture in grasses have recently received much attention. Increasing evidence has revealed that numerous factors, such as transcription factors and plant hormones, play key roles in determining reproductive meristem fate and inflorescence patterning in grasses. Moreover, some molecular switches that have been implicated in specifying inflorescence shapes contribute significantly to grain yields in cereals. Here, we review key genetic and molecular switches recently identified from two model grass species, rice () and maize (), that regulate inflorescence morphology specification, including meristem identity, meristem size and maintenance, initiation and outgrowth of axillary meristems, and organogenesis. Furthermore, we summarize emerging networks of genes and pathways in grass inflorescence morphogenesis and emphasize their evolutionary divergence in comparison with the model eudicot We also discuss the agricultural application of genes controlling grass inflorescence development.


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