The angiosperm female gametophyte is critical for plant reproduction. It contains the egg cell and central cell that become fertilized and give rise to the embryo and endosperm of the seed, respectively. Female gametophyte development begins early in ovule development with the formation of a diploid megaspore mother cell that undergoes meiosis. One resulting haploid megaspore then develops into the female gametophyte. Genetic and epigenetic processes mediate specification of megaspore mother cell identity and limit megaspore mother cell formation to a single cell per ovule. Auxin gradients influence female gametophyte polarity and a battery of transcription factors mediate female gametophyte cell specification and differentiation. The mature female gametophyte secretes peptides that guide the pollen tube to the embryo sac and contains protein complexes that prevent seed development before fertilization. Post-fertilization, the female gametophyte influences seed development through maternal-effect genes and by regulating parental contributions. Female gametophytes can form by an asexual process called gametophytic apomixis, which involves formation of a diploid female gametophyte and fertilization-independent development of the egg into the embryo. These functions collectively underscore the important role of the female gametophyte in seed and food production.
Seed development in angiosperms is dependent on the interplay among different transcriptional programs operating in the embryo, the endosperm, and the maternally-derived seed coat. In angiosperms, the embryo and the endosperm are products of double fertilization during which the two pollen sperm cells fuse with the egg cell and the central cell of the female gametophyte. In Arabidopsis, analyses of mutants in the cell-cycle regulator CYCLIN DEPENDENT KINASE A;1 (CKDA;1) have revealed the importance of a paternal genome for the effective development of the endosperm and ultimately the seed. Here we have exploited cdka;1 fertilization as a novel tool for the identification of seed regulators and factors involved in parent-of-origin–specific regulation during seed development. We have generated genome-wide transcription profiles of cdka;1 fertilized seeds and identified approximately 600 genes that are downregulated in the absence of a paternal genome. Among those, AGAMOUS-LIKE (AGL) genes encoding Type-I MADS-box transcription factors were significantly overrepresented. Here, AGL36 was chosen for an in-depth study and shown to be imprinted. We demonstrate that AGL36 parent-of-origin–dependent expression is controlled by the activity of METHYLTRANSFERASE1 (MET1) maintenance DNA methyltransferase and DEMETER (DME) DNA glycosylase. Interestingly, our data also show that the active maternal allele of AGL36 is regulated throughout endosperm development by components of the FIS Polycomb Repressive Complex 2 (PRC2), revealing a new type of dual epigenetic regulation in seeds.
Seeds of flowering plants consist of three different organisms that develop in parallel. In contrast to animals, a double fertilization event takes place in plants, producing two fertilization products, the embryo and the endosperm. Imprinting, the parent-of-origin–specific expression of genes, typically takes place in the mammalian placenta and in the plant endosperm. A prevailing hypothesis predicts that a parental tug-of-war on the allocation of available recourses to the developing progeny has led to the evolution of imprinting systems where genes expressed from the mother dampen growth whereas genes expressed from the father are growth enhancers. The number of imprinted genes identified in plants is low compared to mammals, and this precludes the elucidation of the epigenetic mechanisms responsible for this specialized expression system. Here, we have used genome-wide transcript profiling of endosperm without paternal contribution to identify seed regulators and, among these, imprinted genes. We identified a cluster of downregulated MADS-box transcription factors, including AGL36, that was subsequently shown to be imprinted by an epigenetic mechanism involving the DNA methylase MET1 and the glycosylase DME. In addition, the expression of the active AGL36 allele was dampened by the FIS Polycomb Repressive Complex, identifying a novel mode of regulation of imprinted genes.
Polarized cell elongation is triggered by small molecule cues during development of diverse organisms. During plant reproduction, pollen interactions with the stigma result in the polar outgrowth of a pollen tube, which delivers sperm cells to the female gametophyte to effect double fertilization. In many plants, pistils stimulate pollen germination. However, in Arabidopsis, the effect of pistils on pollen germination and the pistil factors that stimulate pollen germination remain poorly characterized. Here, we demonstrate that stigma, style, and ovules in Arabidopsis pistils stimulate pollen germination. We isolated an Arabidopsis pistil extract fraction that stimulates Arabidopsis pollen germination, and employed ultrahigh resolution ESI FT-ICR and MS/MS techniques to accurately determine the mass (202.126 daltons) of a compound that is specifically present in this pistil extract fraction. Using the molecular formula (C10H19NOS) and tandem mass spectral fragmentation patterns of the m/z (mass to charge ratio) 202.126 ion, we postulated chemical structures, devised protocols, synthesized N-Methanesulfinyl 1- and 2-azadecalins that are close structural mimics of the m/z 202.126 ion, and showed that they are sufficient to stimulate Arabidopsis pollen germination in vitro (30 µM stimulated ~50% germination) and elicit accession-specific response. Although N-Methanesulfinyl 2-azadecalin stimulated pollen germination in three species of Lineage I of Brassicaceae, it did not induce a germination response in Sisymbrium irio (Lineage II of Brassicaceae) and tobacco, indicating that activity of the compound is not random. Our results show that Arabidopsis pistils promote germination by producing azadecalin-like molecules to ensure rapid fertilization by the appropriate pollen.
Pollen; pistil; germination; stimulant; chemical biology; functional mimic
In flowering plants, gametogenesis generates multicellular male and female gametophytes. In the model system Arabidopsis, the male gametophyte or pollen grain contains two sperm cells and a vegetative cell. The female gametophyte or embryo sac contains seven cells, namely one egg, two synergids, one central cell and three antipodal cells. Double fertilization of the central cell and egg produces respectively a triploid endosperm and a diploid zygote that develops further into an embryo. The genetic control of the early embryo patterning, especially the initiation of the first zygotic division and the positioning of the cell plate, is largely unknown.
Here we report the characterization of a mutation, yaozhe (yao), that causes zygote arrest and misplacement of cell plate of the zygote, leading to early embryo lethality. In addition, gametophyte development is partially impaired. A small portion of the mutant embryo sacs are arrested at four-nucleate stage with aberrant nuclear positioning. Furthermore, the competence of male gametophytes is also compromised. YAO encodes a nucleolar protein with seven WD-repeats. Its homologues in human and yeast have been shown to be components of the U3 snoRNP complex and function in 18S rRNA processing. YAO is expressed ubiquitously, with high level of expression in tissues under active cell divisions, including embryo sacs, pollen, embryos, endosperms and root tips.
Phenotypic analysis indicated that YAO is required for the correct positioning of the first zygotic division plane and plays a critical role in gametogenesis in Arabidopsis. Since YAO is a nucleolar protein and its counterparts in yeast and human are components of the U3 snoRNP complex, we therefore postulate that YAO is most likely involved in rRNA processing in plants as well.
Arabidopsis has three cytokinin receptors genes: CRE1, AHK2 and AHK3. Availability of plants that are homozygous mutant for these three genes indicates that cytokinin receptors in the haploid cells are dispensable for the development of male and female gametophytes. The triple mutants form a few flowers but never set seed, indicating that reproductive growth is impaired. We investigated which reproductive processes are affected in the triple mutants. Anthers of mutant plants contained fewer pollen grains and did not dehisce. Pollen in the anthers completed the formation of the one vegetative nucleus and the two sperm nuclei, as seen in wild type. The majority of the ovules were abnormal: 78% lacked the embryo sac, 10% carried a female gametophyte that terminated its development before completing three rounds of nuclear division, and about 12% completed three rounds of nuclear division but the gametophytes were smaller than those of the wild type. Reciprocal crosses between the wild type and the triple mutants indicated that pollen from mutant plants did not germinate on wild-type stigmas, and wild-type pollen did not germinate on mutant stigmas. These results suggest that cytokinin receptors in the sporophyte are indispensable for anther dehiscence, pollen maturation, induction of pollen germination by the stigma and female gametophyte formation and maturation.
cytokinin; cytokinin receptor; female gametophyte; male gametophyte; stigma
In eukaryotes, fertilization relies on complex and specialized mechanisms that achieve the precise delivery of the male gamete to the female gamete and their subsequent union [1–4]. In flowering plants, the haploid male gametophyte or pollen tube (PT)  carries two non-motile sperm cells to the female gametophyte (FG) or embryo sac  during a long assisted journey through the maternal tissues [7–10]. In Arabidopsis, typically one PT reaches one of the two synergids of the FG (Figure 1A) where it terminates its growth and delivers the sperm cells, a poorly understood process called pollen tube reception. Here, we report the isolation and characterization of the Arabidopsis mutant abstinence by mutual consent. Interestingly, pollen tube reception is impaired only when an amc pollen tube reaches an amc female gametophyte resulting in pollen tube overgrowth and completely preventing sperm discharge and the development of homozygous mutants. Moreover, we show that AMC is strongly and transiently expressed in both male and female gametophytes during fertilization and that AMC functions in gametophytes as a peroxin essential for protein import into peroxisomes. These findings show that peroxisomes play an unexpected key role in gametophyte recognition and implicate a diffusible signal emanating from either gametophytes that is required for pollen tube discharge.
Pollen tube germination, growth, and guidance (progamic phase) culminating in sperm discharge is a multi-stage process including complex interactions between the male gametophyte as well as sporophytic tissues and the female gametophyte (embryo sac), respectively. Inter- and intra-specific crossing barriers in maize and Tripsacum have been studied and a precise description of progamic pollen tube development in maize is reported here. It was found that pollen germination and initial tube growth are rather unspecific, but an early, first crossing barrier was detected before arrival at the transmitting tract. Pollination of maize silks with Tripsacum pollen and incompatible pollination of Ga1s/Ga1s-maize silks with ga1-maize pollen revealed another two incompatibility barriers, namely transmitting tract mistargeting and insufficient growth support. Attraction and growth support by the transmitting tract seem to play key roles for progamic pollen tube growth. After leaving transmitting tracts, pollen tubes have to navigate across the ovule in the ovular cavity. Pollination of an embryo sac-less maize RNAi-line allowed the role of the female gametophyte for pollen tube guidance to be determined in maize. It was found that female gametophyte controlled guidance is restricted to a small region around the micropyle, approximately 50–100 μm in diameter. This area is comparable to the area of influence of previously described ZmEA1-based short-range female gametophyte signalling. In conclusion, the progamic phase is almost completely under sporophytic control in maize.
Female gametophyte; maize; pollen tube guidance; prezygotic barriers; transmitting tract; Tripsacum
Two sperm cells are required to achieve double fertilization in flowering plants (angiosperms). In contrast to animals and lower plants such as mosses and ferns, sperm cells of flowering plants (angiosperms) are immobile and are transported to the female gametes (egg and central cell) via the pollen tube. The two sperm cells arise from the generative pollen cell either within the pollen grain or after germination inside the pollen tube. While pollen tube growth and sperm behavior has been intensively investigated in model plant species such as tobacco and lily, little is know about sperm dynamics and behavior during pollen germination, tube growth and sperm release in grasses. In the March issue of Journal of Experimental Botany, we have reported about the sporophytic and gametophytic control of pollen tube germination, growth and guidance in maize.1 Five progamic phases were distinguished involving various prezygotic crossing barriers before sperm cell delivery inside the female gametophyte takes place. Using live cell imaging and a generative cell-specific promoter driving α-tubulin-YFP expression in the male germline, we report here the formation of the male germline inside the pollen grain and the sperm behaviour during pollen germination and their movement dynamics during tube growth in maize.
male gametophyte; generative cell; sperm; pollen tube; tubulin; fertilization; maize
New generation sequencing technology has allowed investigation of the small RNA populations of flowering plants at great depth. However, little is known about small RNAs in their reproductive cells, especially in post-meiotic cells of the gametophyte generation. Pollen - the male gametophyte - is the specialised haploid structure that generates and delivers the sperm cells to the female gametes at fertilisation. Whether development and differentiation of the male gametophyte depends on the action of microRNAs and trans-acting siRNAs guiding changes in gene expression is largely unknown. Here we have used 454 sequencing to survey the various small RNA populations present in mature pollen of Arabidopsis thaliana.
In this study we detected the presence of 33 different microRNA families in mature pollen and validated the expression levels of 17 selected miRNAs by Q-RT-PCR. The majority of the selected miRNAs showed pollen-enriched expression compared with leaves. Furthermore, we report for the first time the presence of trans-acting siRNAs in pollen. In addition to describing new patterns of expression for known small RNAs in each of these classes, we identified 7 putative novel microRNAs. One of these, ath-MIR2939, targets a pollen-specific F-box transcript and we demonstrate cleavage of its target mRNA in mature pollen.
Despite the apparent simplicity of the male gametophyte, comprising just two different cell types, pollen not only utilises many miRNAs and trans-acting siRNAs expressed in the somatic tissues but also expresses novel miRNAs.
Species-preferential osmotic pollen tube burst and sperm discharge in maize involve induced opening of the pollen tube-expressed potassium channel KZM1 by the egg apparatus-derived defensin-like protein ZmES4.
In contrast to animals and lower plant species, sperm cells of flowering plants are non-motile and are transported to the female gametes via the pollen tube, i.e. the male gametophyte. Upon arrival at the female gametophyte two sperm cells are discharged into the receptive synergid cell to execute double fertilization. The first players involved in inter-gametophyte signaling to attract pollen tubes and to arrest their growth have been recently identified. In contrast the physiological mechanisms leading to pollen tube burst and thus sperm discharge remained elusive. Here, we describe the role of polymorphic defensin-like cysteine-rich proteins ZmES1-4 (Zea mays embryo sac) from maize, leading to pollen tube growth arrest, burst, and explosive sperm release. ZmES1-4 genes are exclusively expressed in the cells of the female gametophyte. ZmES4-GFP fusion proteins accumulate in vesicles at the secretory zone of mature synergid cells and are released during the fertilization process. Using RNAi knock-down and synthetic ZmES4 proteins, we found that ZmES4 induces pollen tube burst in a species-preferential manner. Pollen tube plasma membrane depolarization, which occurs immediately after ZmES4 application, as well as channel blocker experiments point to a role of K+-influx in the pollen tube rupture mechanism. Finally, we discovered the intrinsic rectifying K+ channel KZM1 as a direct target of ZmES4. Following ZmES4 application, KZM1 opens at physiological membrane potentials and closes after wash-out. In conclusion, we suggest that vesicles containing ZmES4 are released from the synergid cells upon male-female gametophyte signaling. Subsequent interaction between ZmES4 and KZM1 results in channel opening and K+ influx. We further suggest that K+ influx leads to water uptake and culminates in osmotic tube burst. The species-preferential activity of polymorphic ZmES4 indicates that the mechanism described represents a pre-zygotic hybridization barrier and may be a component of reproductive isolation in plants.
Sperm cells of animals and lower plants are mobile and can swim to the oocyte or egg cell. In contrast, flowering plants generate immobile sperm encased in a pollen coat to protect them from drying out and are transported via the pollen tube cell towards the egg apparatus to achieve double fertilization. Upon arrival the pollen tube tip bursts to deliver two sperm cells, one fusing with the egg cell to generate the embryo and the other fusing with the central cell to generate the endosperm. Here, we report the mechanisms leading to pollen tube burst and sperm discharge in maize. We found that before fertilization the defensin-like protein ZmES1-4 is stored in the secretory zone of the egg apparatus cells and that pollen tubes cannot discharge sperm in ZmES1-4 knock-down plants. Application of chemically synthesized ZmES4 leads to pollen tube burst within seconds in maize, but not in other plant species, suggesting this mechanism may be species specific. Finally, we identified the pollen tube-expressed potassium channel KZM1 as a target of ZmES4, which opens after ZmES4 treatment and probably leads to K+ influx and sperm release after osmotic burst.
In contrast to animals and lower plants such as mosses and ferns, sperm cells of flowering plants (angiosperms) are immobile and require transportation to the female gametes via the vegetative pollen tube cell to achieve double fertilization. The path of the pollen tube towards the female gametophyte (embryo sac) has been intensively studied in many intra- and interspecific crossing experiments with the aim of increasing the gene pool of crop plants for greater yield, improved biotic and abiotic stress resistance, and for introducing new agronomic traits. Many attempts to hybridize different species or genotypes failed due to the difficulty for the pollen tubes in reaching the female gametophyte. Detailed studies showed that these processes are controlled by various self-incompatible (intraspecific) and cross-incompatible (interspecific) hybridization mechanisms.
Understanding the molecular mechanisms of crossing barriers is therefore of great interest in plant reproduction, evolution and breeding research. In particular, pre-zygotic hybridization barriers related to pollen tube germination, growth, guidance and sperm delivery, which are considered the major hybridization controls in nature and thus also contribute to species isolation and speciation, have been intensively investigated. Despite this general interest, surprisingly little is known about these processes in the most important agronomic plant family, the Gramineae, Poaceae or grasses. Small polymorphic proteins and their receptors, degradation of sterility locus proteins and general compounds such as calcium, γ-aminobutyric acid or nitric oxide have been shown to be involved in progamic pollen germination, adhesion, tube growth and guidance, as well as sperm release. Most advances have been made in the Brassicaceae, Papaveraceae, Linderniaceae and Solanaceae families including their well-understood self-incompatibility (SI) systems. Grass species evolved similar mechanisms to control the penetration and growth of self-pollen to promote intraspecific outcrossing and to prevent fertilization by alien sperm cells. However, in the Poaceae, the underlying molecular mechanisms are still largely unknown.
We propose to develop maize (Zea mays) as a model to investigate the above-described processes to understand the associated intra- and interspecific crossing barriers in grasses. Many genetic, cellular and biotechnological tools including the completion of a reference genome (inbred line B73) have been established in the last decade and many more maize inbred genomes are expected to be available soon. Moreover, a cellular marker line database as well as large transposon insertion collections and improved Agrobacterium transformation protocols are now available. Additionally, the processes described above are well studied at the morphological level and a number of mutants have been described already, awaiting disclosure of the relevant genes. The identification of the first key players in pollen tube growth, guidance and burst show maize to be an excellent grass model to investigate these processes in more detail. Here we provide an overview of our current understanding of these processes in Poaceae with a focus on maize, and also include relevant discoveries in eudicot model species.
Maize; male germline; sperm cell; interspecific crosses; self- and cross-incompatibility; pollen tube growth and guidance; fertilization; reproductive isolation
In fungi and metazoans, the SCF-type Ubiquitin protein ligases (E3s) play a critical role in cell cycle regulation by degrading negative regulators, such as cell cycle-dependent kinase inhibitors (CKIs) at the G1-to-S-phase checkpoint. Here we report that FBL17, an Arabidopsis thaliana F-box protein, is involved in cell cycle regulation during male gametogenesis. FBL17 expression is strongly enhanced in plants co-expressing E2Fa and DPa, transcription factors that promote S-phase entry. FBL17 loss-of-function mutants fail to undergo pollen mitosis II, which generates the two sperm cells in mature A. thaliana pollen. Nonetheless, the single sperm cell-like cell in fbl17 mutants is functional but will exclusively fertilize the egg cell of the female gametophyte, giving rise to an embryo that will later abort, most likely due to the lack of functional endosperm. Seed abortion can, however, be overcome by mutations in FIE, a component of the Polycomb group complex, overall resembling loss-of-function mutations in the A. thaliana cyclin-dependent kinase CDKA;1. Finally we identified ASK11, as an SKP1-like partner protein of FBL17 and discuss a possible mechanism how SCFFBL17 may regulate cell division during male gametogenesis.
The flow cytometric seed screen allows for identification of reproductive modes of seed formation and inference of the ploidy of contributing gametes. However, the lack of a mathematical formalization to infer male/female genomic contributions, and the prerequisite of a binucleate female contribution to the endosperm limits its applicability.We evaluated this assumption combining a DNA-based progeny survey with a comparison of the cytology of reproductive pathways co-occurring within single individuals representing 14 Potentilleae species from six phylogenetic lineages.A numerical framework valid for sexual and pseudogamous taxa was developed, enabling quantification of female and male genomes contributing to embryo and endosperm independent of gametophyte origins, numbers of sperm involved and ploidy of parents. The inference strongly depended on accurate peak index estimation. The endosperm of Potentilleae species received a binucleate female contribution in five evolutionary lineages whereas endosperm formation remained uncertain in the Tormentillae. A modified flow cytometric seed screen protocol was developed to cope with low endosperm contents.Evolutionary conservation of a binucleate female contribution to the endosperm suggested wide applicability of flow cytometric seed screen – at least in the Potentilleae. However, alternative progeny surveys and precise embryo/endosperm ploidy estimates are required for a comprehensive understanding of the cytology of seed formation.
apomixis; cytology; embryo; endosperm; flow cytometry; gametes; Potentilla; reproduction
• Background and Aims It is generally known that fertilization is delayed for more than a few weeks after pollination in Fagales. Recent studies showed that, during that period, pollen tubes grew in pistils in close association with the development of the ovule in a five-step process in Casuarina (Casuarinaceae) and a four-step process in Alnus (Betulaceae). The number of pollen tubes was reduced from many to one, a fact suggesting that delayed fertilization plays a role for gametophyte selection. Myrica (Myricaceae) also shows delayed fertilization for >2 weeks after pollination, but nothing is known of how pollen tubes grow in the pistil during that period.
• Methods Pollen-tube growth and the development of the ovule in pistils was investigated by fluorescent and scanning electron microscopy and analysis of microtome sections of the pistils.
• Key Results Developmental study of the pollen-tube growth in the pistil of M. rubra showed that the tip of the pollen tube was branched or lay in a zigzag pattern in the upper space of the ovarian locule or near the tip of the integument, and subsequently was swollen on the nucellar surface. Such morphological changes indicate that the pollen-tube growth was temporarily arrested before fertilization. The pollen-tube growth in M. rubra can therefore be summarized as occurring in three steps: (1) from the stigma to the ovarian locule; (2) from the ovarian locule to the nucellar surface; and (3) from the nucellar surface to the embryo sac.
• Conclusion Myrica differs from other families in that the pollen tubes arrest their growth on the nucellar surface, probably digesting nutrient from nucellar cells. There is little information on five other families of Fagales. An extensive study is needed to better understand the diversity and function of the mode of pollen-tube growth within the order.
Fagales; fertilization; micropyle; Myrica; Myricaceae; pollen-tube growth
Angiosperms do not contain a distinct germline, but rather develop gametes from gametophyte initials that undergo cell division. These gametes contain cells that give rise to an endosperm and the embryo. DNA methylation is decreased in the vegetative nucleus (VN) and central cell nuclei (CCN) resulting in expression of transposable elements (TEs). It is thought that the siRNAs produced in response to TE expression are able to travel to the sperm cells and egg cells (EC) from VN and CCN, respectively, in order to enforce silencing there. Demethylation during gametogenesis helps ensure that even newly integrated TEs are expressed and therefore silenced by the resulting siRNA production. A final form of epigenetic control is modification of histones, which includes accumulation of the H3 variant HTR10 in mature sperm that is then completely replaced following fertilization. In females, the histone isoforms present in the EC and CCN differ, potentially helping to differentiate the two components during gametogenesis.
epigenetic modifications; genomic imprinting; transposon reactivation; plant gametogenesis; DNA methylation; histone modifications
Gametophytic cytokinesis is essential for the development and function of the male and female gametophytes. We have previously described the isolation and characterisation of the gemini pollen 1 (gem1) that acts gametophytically to disturb asymmetric division and cytokinesis at pollen mitosis I in Arabidopsis. Here we describe the genetic and cytological analysis of an independent gametophytic mutant, gem2, with similar characteristics to gem1, but which maps to a different genetic locus. gem2 shows reduced genetic transmission through both male and female gametes and leads to the production of divided or twin-celled pollen. Developmental analysis revealed that gem2 does not affect karyokinesis at pollen mitosis I, but leads to repositioning of the cell plate and partial or complete failure of cytokinesis, resulting in symmetrical divisions or binucleate pollen grains respectively. Symmetrical divisions lead to altered pollen cell fate with both sister cells displaying vegetative cell fate. Moreover, we demonstrate that the predominant female defect in gem2 is a lack of cellularization of the embryo sac during megagametogenesis. GEM2 therefore defines an independent genetic locus that is involved in the correct specification of both male and female gametophytic cytokinesis.
gemini pollen; Arabidopsis thaliana; pollen mitosis I; gametophytic cytokinesis; cellularization
A major breakthrough in understanding double fertilization has been made by high resolution live-imaging. This has helped resolve several disputed issues such as preferential fertilization and polyspermy block. Cumulated information of molecular components involved in double fertilization highlights the importance of cell-cell communication between male and female gametophytes.
Flowering plant seeds originate from a unique double-fertilization event, which involves two sperm cells and two female gametes, the egg cell and the central cell. For many years our knowledge of mechanisms involved in angiosperm fertilization remained minimal. It was obvious that several signals were required to explain how the male gametes are delivered inside the maternal reproductive tissues to the two female gametes but their molecular nature remained unknown. The difficulties in imaging the double-fertilization process prevented the identification of the mode of sperm cell delivery. It was believed that the two sperm cells were not functionally equivalent.
We review recent studies that have significantly improved our understanding of the early steps of double fertilization. The attractants of the pollen tube have been identified as small proteins produced by the synergid cells that surround the egg cell. Genetic studies have identified the signalling pathways required for the release of male gametes from the pollen tube. High-resolution imaging of the trajectory of the two male gametes showed that their transport does not involve the synergid cells directly and that isomorphic male gametes are functionally equivalent. We also outline major outstanding issues in the field concerned with the barrier against polyspermy, gamete recognition and mechanisms that prevent interspecies crosses.
Female gametophyte development in Arabidopsis thaliana follows a well-defined program that involves many fundamental cellular processes. In this study, we report the involvement of the Arabidopsis thaliana MIDASIN1 (AtMDN1) gene during female gametogenesis through the phenotypic characterization of plants heterozygous for an insertional mdn1 mutant allele. The MDN1 yeast ortholog has previously been shown to encode a non-ribosomal protein involved in the maturation and assembly of the 60S ribosomal subunit. Heterozygous MDN1/mdn1 plants were semisterile and mdn1 allele transmission through the female gametophyte was severely affected. Development of mdn1 female gametophyte was considerably delayed compared to their wild-type siblings. However, delayed mdn1 female gametophytes were able to reach maturity and a delayed pollination experiment showed that a small proportion of the female gametophytes were functional. We also report that the Arabidopsis NOTCHLESS (AtNLE) gene is also required for female gametogenesis. The NLE protein has been previously shown to interact with MDN1 and to be also involved in 60S subunit biogenesis. The introduction of an AtNLE-RNA interference construct in Arabidopsis led to semisterility defects. Defective female gametophytes were mostly arrested at the one-nucleate (FG1) developmental stage. These data suggest that the activity of both AtMDN1 and AtNLE is essential for female gametogenesis progression.
Female gametophyte; Embryo sac; Gametogenesis; Midasin; Notchless; Ribosome biogenesis
Pentatricopeptide repeat (PPR) proteins are mainly involved in regulating post-transcriptional processes in mitochondria and plastids, including chloroplasts. Mutations in the Arabidopsis PPR2 gene have previously been found to cause defects in seed development and reduced transmission through male and female gametophytes. However, the exact function of AtPPR2 has not been defined. We found that a loss-of-function mutation of AtPPR2 leads to arrest of the first mitotic division during both male and female gametogenesis. In addition, the Atppr2 mutation causes delayed embryogenesis, leading to embryonic lethality. Mutation in emb2750, which appears to be a weak mutant allele of the AtPPR2 locus, also results in defective seeds. However, a majority of emb2750 seeds were able to germinate, but their cotyledons were albino and often deformed, and growth of the emb2750 seedlings were arrested after germination. AtPPR2 is mainly expressed in plant parts that undergo cell division, and AtPPR2 protein was localized to chloroplasts. RNA immunoprecipitation and protein gel mobility shift assays showed that AtPPR2 binds to plastid 23S rRNA. Our study adds to a growing body of evidence that plastids and/or chloroplasts play a key role in cell division. AtPPR2 may modulate the translational process to fine-tune plastid function, thereby regulating cell division.
AtPPR2; pentatricopeptide repeat proteins; gametogenesis; embryogenesis; cell division; plastid
In seed plants, the ovule is the female reproductive structure, which surrounds and nourishes the gametophyte and embryo. This investigation describes the PRETTY FEW SEEDS2 (PFS2) locus, which regulates ovule patterning. The pfs2 mutant exhibited developmental defects in the maternal integuments and gametophyte. This mutation was inherited as a maternal trait, indicating that gametophyte defects resulted from ovule patterning aberrations. Specifically, the boundary between the chalaza and the nucellus, two regions of the ovule primordia, shifted towards the distal end of pfs2 ovule primordia. Results indicated that the PFS2 locus could: (i) be involved in the development of either the nucellus or the chalaza; or (ii) establish a boundary between these two regions. Examination of genetic interactions of the pfs2 mutation with other well-characterized ovule loci indicates that this locus affects integument morphogenesis. Interestingly, the pfs2 inner no outer and pfs2 strubbelig double mutants had inner integuments that appeared similar to their ancestral precursor. The fossil record indicates that the inner integument evolved by fusion of sterilized sporangia or branches around a central megasporangium. The question of whether the structures observed in these double mutants are homologous or merely analogous to the ancestral precursors of the inner integument is discussed.
Pollen tubes deliver sperm after navigating through flower tissues in response to attractive and repulsive cues. Genetic analyses in maize and Arabidopsis thaliana and cell ablation studies in Torenia fournieri have shown that the female gametophyte (the 7-celled haploid embryo sac within an ovule) and surrounding diploid tissues are essential for guiding pollen tubes to ovules. The variety and inaccessibility of these cells and tissues has made it challenging to characterize the sources of guidance signals and the dynamic responses they elicit in the pollen tubes.
Here we developed an in vitro assay to study pollen tube guidance to excised A. thaliana ovules. Using this assay we discerned the temporal and spatial regulation and species-specificity of late stage guidance signals and characterized the dynamics of pollen tube responses. We established that unfertilized A. thaliana ovules emit diffusible, developmentally regulated, species-specific attractants, and demonstrated that ovules penetrated by pollen tubes rapidly release diffusible pollen tube repellents.
These results demonstrate that in vitro pollen tube guidance to excised A. thaliana ovules efficiently recapitulates much of in vivo pollen tube behaviour during the final stages of pollen tube growth. This assay will aid in confirming the roles of candidate guidance molecules, exploring the phenotypes of A. thaliana pollen tube guidance mutants and characterizing interspecies pollination interactions.
Seed development in flowering plants is initiated after a double fertilization event with two sperm cells fertilizing two female gametes, the egg cell and the central cell, leading to the formation of embryo and endosperm, respectively. In most species the endosperm is a polyploid tissue inheriting two maternal genomes and one paternal genome. As a consequence of this particular genomic configuration the endosperm is a dosage sensitive tissue, and changes in the ratio of maternal to paternal contributions strongly impact on endosperm development. The FERTILIZATION INDEPENDENT SEED (FIS) Polycomb Repressive Complex 2 (PRC2) is essential for endosperm development; however, the underlying forces that led to the evolution of the FIS-PRC2 remained unknown. Here, we show that the functional requirement of the FIS-PRC2 can be bypassed by increasing the ratio of maternal to paternal genomes in the endosperm, suggesting that the main functional requirement of the FIS-PRC2 is to balance parental genome contributions and to reduce genetic conflict. We furthermore reveal that the AGAMOUS LIKE (AGL) gene AGL62 acts as a dosage-sensitive seed size regulator and that reduced expression of AGL62 might be responsible for reduced size of seeds with increased maternal genome dosage.
Flowering plants reproduce by forming seeds that contain an embryo surrounded by a nourishing endosperm tissue that, similar to the mammalian placenta, supports embryo growth. Normal endosperm development requires the FERTILIZATION INDEPENDENT SEED (FIS) Polycomb Repressive Complex2 (PRC2). In most flowering plants the endosperm is a polyploid tissue containing two maternal and one paternal genome copies. As a consequence of this particular genomic configuration the endosperm is a dosage sensitive tissue, and changes in the ratio of maternal and paternal genome copies have drastic effects on endosperm development. Here we investigated the consequences of increased maternal genome dosage on endosperm and seed development. We found that increased maternal genome dosage alleviates the need for the FIS-PRC2 in the endosperm. While in fis mutant seeds with normal maternal genome dosage the endosperm fails to cellularize and embryos arrest, in fis mutant seeds with increased maternal genome dosage the endosperm cellularizes and viable embryos develop. Our study suggests a functional role of the FIS-PRC2 in balancing parental genome dosage in the endosperm. We propose that the FIS-PRC2 evolved to reduce genetic conflict that arose as a consequence of unbalanced genome contributions in the endosperm.
The pollen grain contains the male gametophyte that extends a pollen tube that grows through female tissues in order to deliver sperm to the embryo sac for double fertilization. Growing pollen tubes form periodic callose plugs that are thought to block off the older parts of the tube and maintain the cytoplasm near the growing tip. The morphology of callose plugs and the patterns of their deposition were previously shown to vary among species, but variation within a species had not been examined. We therefore systematically examined callose plug deposition in Arabidopsis thaliana ecotypes, tested for heritability using reciprocal crosses between ecotypes that had differing deposition patterns, and investigated the relationship between callose plugs and pollen tube growth rate. We also surveyed callose plug deposition patterns in different species of tomato.
We used in vitro grown pollen tubes of 14 different A. thaliana ecotypes and measured the distance from the pollen grain pore to the first callose plug (termed first interval). This distance varied among Arabidopsis ecotypes and in some cases even within an ecotype. Pollen tubes without a callose plug were shorter than those with a callose plug, and tubes with a callose plug near the grain were, on average, longer than those with the first callose plug farther from the grain. Variations in the first callose plug position were also observed between different species of tomato.
We showed that the position of the first callose plug varied among Arabidopsis ecotypes and in tomato species, and that callose plug deposition patterns were heritable. These findings lay a foundation for mapping genes that regulate callose plug deposition or that determine pollen tube length or growth rate.
Callose plugs; Pollen tube growth; Sperm
The Arabidopsis cellulose synthase-like D (CSLD) 2 and 3 genes are known to function in root hair development. Here, we show that these genes also play a role in female gametophyte development because csld2 csld3 double mutants were observed to have low seed set that could be traced to defects in female transmission efficiency. Cell biological studies of csld2 csld3 ovules showed synergid cell degeneration during megagametogenesis and reduced pollen tube penetration during fertilization. Although CSLD2 and CSLD3 function redundantly in female gametophyte development, detailed analyses of root hair phenotypes of progeny from genetic crosses between csld2 and csld3, suggest that CSLD3 might play a more prominent role than CSLD2 in root hair development. Phylogenetic and gene duplication studies of CSLD2 and CSLD3 homologs in Arabidopsis lyrata, Populus, Medicago, maize, and Physcomitrella were further performed to investigate the course of evolution for these genes. Our analyses indicate that the ancestor of land plants possibly contained two copies of CSLD genes, one of which developed into the CSLD5 lineage in flowering plants, and the other formed the CSLD1/2/3/4 clade. In addition, CSLD2 and CSLD3 likely originated from a recent genome-wide duplication event explaining their redundancy. Moreover, sliding-window dN/dS analysis showed that most of the coding regions of CSLD2 and CSLD3 have been under strong purifying selection pressure. However, the region that encodes the N-terminus of CSLD3 has been under relatively relaxed selection pressure as indicated by its high dN/dS value, suggesting that CSLD3 might have gained additional functions through more frequent non-synonymous sequence changes at the N-terminus, which could partly explain the more prominent role of CSLD3 during root hair development compared to CSLD2.
Arabidopsis; cellulose synthase; female gametophyte; gene duplication; phylogenetics; root hairs
Imbibed seeds integrate environmental and endogenous signals to break dormancy and initiate growth under optimal conditions. Seed maturation plays an important role in determining the survival of germinating seeds, for example one of the roles of dormancy is to stagger germination to prevent mass growth under suboptimal conditions. The B3-domain transcription factor FUSCA3 (FUS3) is a master regulator of seed development and an important node in hormonal interaction networks in Arabidopsis thaliana. Its function has been mainly characterized during embryonic development, where FUS3 is highly expressed to promote seed maturation and dormancy by regulating ABA/GA levels.
In this study, we present evidence for a role of FUS3 in delaying seed germination at supraoptimal temperatures that would be lethal for the developing seedlings. During seed imbibition at supraoptimal temperature, the FUS3 promoter is reactivated and induces de novo synthesis of FUS3 mRNA, followed by FUS3 protein accumulation. Genetic analysis shows that FUS3 contributes to the delay of seed germination at high temperature. Unlike WT, seeds overexpressing FUS3 (ML1:FUS3-GFP) during imbibition are hypersensitive to high temperature and do not germinate, however, they can fully germinate after recovery at control temperature reaching 90% seedling survival. ML1:FUS3-GFP hypersensitivity to high temperature can be partly recovered in the presence of fluridone, an inhibitor of ABA biosynthesis, suggesting this hypersensitivity is due in part to higher ABA level in this mutant. Transcriptomic analysis shows that WT seeds imbibed at supraoptimal temperature activate seed-specific genes and ABA biosynthetic and signaling genes, while inhibiting genes that promote germination and growth, such as GA biosynthetic and signaling genes.
In this study, we have uncovered a novel function for the master regulator of seed maturation, FUS3, in delaying germination at supraoptimal temperature. Physiologically, this is important since delaying germination has a protective role at high temperature. Transcriptomic analysis of seeds imbibed at supraoptimal temperature reveal that a complex program is in place, which involves not only the regulation of heat and dehydration response genes to adjust cellular functions, but also the activation of seed-specific programs and the inhibition of germination-promoting programs to delay germination.
High temperature; FUSCA3; Seed germination; Hormones; ABA; Transcriptome