The process of L1 specification early in plant embryogenesis, and subsequent maintenance and elaboration of epidermal organization, are fundamental to plant growth and fitness. To occur in a co-ordinated fashion, these processes require considerable cell–cell cross-talk. It is perhaps then unsurprising that several classes of plant RLKs (receptor-like kinases), as well as other membrane-localized signalling components, have been implicated both in epidermal specification and in patterning events governing the distribution of epidermal cell types. However, despite our growing knowledge of the roles of these signalling molecules, remarkably little is understood regarding their function at the cellular level. In particular the potential role of regulated proteolytic cleavage in controlling the activity of signalling molecules at the plant plasma membrane has remained largely unaddressed despite its massive importance in signalling in animal systems. Because of the relative physical accessibility of their expression domains, molecules involved in epidermal development present opportunities for investigating mechanisms of cell–cell signalling in planta. Advances in understanding the potential regulatory processing of membrane-localized signalling molecules during epidermal development will be examined using parallels with animal systems to highlight potential future directions for this field of research.

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