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One of the most remarkable examples of convergent evolution is the transition from C3 to C4 photosynthesis, an event that occurred on over 60 independent occasions. The evolution of C4 is particularly noteworthy because of the complexity of the developmental and metabolic changes that took place. In most cases, compartmentalized metabolic reactions were facilitated by the development of a distinct leaf anatomy known as Kranz. C4 Kranz anatomy differs from ancestral C3 anatomy with respect to vein spacing patterns across the leaf, cell-type specification around veins, and cell-specific organelle function. Here we review our current understanding of how Kranz anatomy evolved and how it develops, with a focus on studies that are dissecting the underlying genetic mechanisms. This research field has gained prominence in recent years because understanding the genetic regulation of Kranz may enable the C3-to-C4 transition to be engineered, an endeavor that would significantly enhance crop productivity. Expected final online publication date for the Annual Review of Genetics Volume 52 is November 23, 2018. Please see for revised estimates.

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Journal article


Annu Rev Genet

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