The correct development of the plant epidermis is of the utmost importance for plant survival. Epidermal development is finely honed to provide a compromise between protective roles against pathogen attack, radiation damage, water-loss and other environmental aggressions, and roles as an interactive interface with the environment, vital for gas and nutrient exchange, water uptake and light penetration. In line with its multiple roles, the plant epidermis can differentiate a wide range of morphologically dramatic specialised cell types, including root hair cells, trichomes and stomatal guard cells. Because of their accessibility, and the fact that disrupting their development in the laboratory context does not lead to inviability, a relatively large amount is known about how epidermal cell-types are specified from a basic pavement of epidermal precursors (protoderm). In contrast, loosing or even compromising basic epidermal identity usually leads to plant lethality. Correspondingly, much less is known about how basic epidermal identity is specified, and to what extent specification and growth of the epidermis is necessary for and/or co-ordinated with development and growth of underlying cell-layers during development. Herein I will attempt to analyse evidence for the importance of the epidermis for normal plant growth, and will present current know ledge regarding how signalling between epidermal cells and their neighbours controls the development of this vitally important tissue.
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