The ability of plants to grow and form organs throughout their lifetime is dependent on their sustained stem cell activity. These stem cell populations are maintained by intricate networks of intercellular signaling pathways. In Arabidopsis thaliana, the small secreted peptide CLAVATA3 (CLV3) controls shoot apical meristem (SAM) maintenance by activating a signal transduction pathway that modulates the expression of the homeodomain transcription factor WUSCHEL (WUS). Here, we demonstrate that two CLV3-related peptides, CLE16 and CLE17, restrict stem cell accumulation in the absence of CLV3. CLE16 and CLE17 contribute independently to SAM maintenance and organ production in clv3 plants at all stages of development. We show that CLE16 and CLE17 signal through a subset of CLV3 receptors, the BARELY ANY MERISTEM (BAM) receptor kinases, and act upstream of WUS. Our study reveals that CLE16 and CLE17 function in a mechanism that partially compensates for CLV3 to maintain stem cell homeostasis and plant resiliency, and expands the potential targets for enhancing yield traits in crop species.

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