Expansins are a family of extracellular proteins proposed to play a key role in wall stress relaxation and, thus, in cell and tissue growth. To test the possible function of expansins in morphogenesis, we have developed a technique that allows transient local microinduction of gene expression in transgenic plants. We have used this system to manipulate expansin gene expression in various tissues. Our results indicate that local expansin expression within the meristem induces a developmental program that recapitulates the entire process of leaf formation. Moreover, local transient induction of expansin expression on the flank of developing primordia leads to the induction of ectopic lamina tissue and thus modulation of leaf shape. These data describe an approach for the local manipulation of gene expression and indicate a role for expansin in the control of both leaf initiation and shape. These results are consistent with the action of cell division-independent mechanisms in plant morphogenesis
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