Plant development depends on the activity of pluripotent stem cells in meristems, such as the shoot apical meristem and the flower meristem. In Arabidopsis thaliana, WUSCHEL (WUS) is essential for stem cell homeostasis in meristems and integument differentiation in ovule development. In rice (Oryza sativa), the WUS ortholog TILLERS ABSENT 1 (TAB1) promotes stem cell fate in axillary meristem development, but its function is unrelated to shoot apical meristem maintenance in vegetative development. In this study, we examined the role of TAB1 in flower development. The ovule, which originates directly from the flower meristem, failed to differentiate in tab1 mutants, suggesting that TAB1 is required for ovule formation. Expression of a stem cell marker was completely absent in the flower meristem at the ovule initiation stage, indicating that TAB1 is essential for stem cell maintenance in the ‘final’ flower meristem. The ovule defect in tab1 was partially rescued by floral organ number 2 mutation, which causes overproliferation of stem cells. Collectively, it is likely that TAB1 promotes ovule formation by maintaining stem cells at a later stage of flower development.

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