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1.  Genome-scale analysis and comparison of gene expression profiles in developing and germinated pollen in Oryza sativa 
BMC Genomics  2010;11:338.
Pollen development from the microspore involves a series of coordinated cellular events, and the resulting mature pollen has a specialized function to quickly germinate, produce a polar-growth pollen tube derived from the vegetative cell, and deliver two sperm cells into the embryo sac for double fertilization. The gene expression profiles of developing and germinated pollen have been characterised by use of the eudicot model plant Arabidopsis. Rice, one of the most important cereal crops, has been used as an excellent monocot model. A comprehensive analysis of transcriptome profiles of developing and germinated pollen in rice is important to understand the conserved and diverse mechanism underlying pollen development and germination in eudicots and monocots.
We used Affymetrix GeneChip® Rice Genome Array to comprehensively analyzed the dynamic changes in the transcriptomes of rice pollen at five sequential developmental stages from microspores to germinated pollen. Among the 51,279 transcripts on the array, we found 25,062 pollen-preferential transcripts, among which 2,203 were development stage-enriched. The diversity of transcripts decreased greatly from microspores to mature and germinated pollen, whereas the number of stage-enriched transcripts displayed a "U-type" change, with the lowest at the bicellular pollen stage; and a transition of overrepresented stage-enriched transcript groups associated with different functional categories, which indicates a shift in gene expression program at the bicellular pollen stage. About 54% of the now-annotated rice F-box protein genes were expressed preferentially in pollen. The transcriptome profile of germinated pollen was significantly and positively correlated with that of mature pollen. Analysis of expression profiles and coexpressed features of the pollen-preferential transcripts related to cell cycle, transcription, the ubiquitin/26S proteasome system, phytohormone signalling, the kinase system and defense/stress response revealed five expression patterns, which are compatible with changes in major cellular events during pollen development and germination. A comparison of pollen transcriptomes between rice and Arabidopsis revealed that 56.6% of the rice pollen preferential genes had homologs in Arabidopsis genome, but 63.4% of these homologs were expressed, with a small proportion being expressed preferentially, in Arabidopsis pollen. Rice and Arabidopsis pollen had non-conservative transcription factors each.
Our results demonstrated that rice pollen expressed a set of reduced but specific transcripts in comparison with vegetative tissues, and the number of stage-enriched transcripts displayed a "U-type" change during pollen development, with the lowest at the bicellular pollen stage. These features are conserved in rice and Arabidopsis. The shift in gene expression program at the bicellular pollen stage may be important to the transition from earlier cell division to later pollen maturity. Pollen at maturity pre-synthesized transcripts needed for germination and early pollen tube growth. The transcription regulation associated with pollen development would have divergence between the two species. Our results also provide novel insights into the molecular program and key components of the regulatory network regulating pollen development and germination.
PMCID: PMC2895629  PMID: 20507633
2.  Genome-Wide Expression Profiling of the Arabidopsis Female Gametophyte Identifies Families of Small, Secreted Proteins 
PLoS Genetics  2007;3(10):e171.
The female gametophyte of flowering plants, the embryo sac, develops within the diploid (sporophytic) tissue of the ovule. While embryo sac–expressed genes are known to be required at multiple stages of the fertilization process, the set of embryo sac–expressed genes has remained poorly defined. In particular, the set of genes responsible for mediating intracellular communication between the embryo sac and the male gametophyte, the pollen grain, is unknown. We used high-throughput cDNA sequencing and whole-genome tiling arrays to compare gene expression in wild-type ovules to that in dif1 ovules, which entirely lack embryo sacs, and myb98 ovules, which are impaired in pollen tube attraction. We identified nearly 400 genes that are downregulated in dif1 ovules. Seventy-eight percent of these embryo sac–dependent genes were predicted to encode for secreted proteins, and 60% belonged to multigenic families. Our results define a large number of candidate extracellular signaling molecules that may act during embryo sac development or fertilization; less than half of these are represented on the widely used ATH1 expression array. In particular, we found that 37 out of 40 genes encoding Domain of Unknown Function 784 (DUF784) domains require the synergid-specific transcription factor MYB98 for expression. Several DUF784 genes were transcribed in synergid cells of the embryo sac, implicating the DUF784 gene family in mediating late stages of embryo sac development or interactions with pollen tubes. The coexpression of highly similar proteins suggests a high degree of functional redundancy among embryo sac genes.
Author Summary
During the sexual reproduction of flowering plants, a pollen tube delivers sperm cells to a specialized group of cells known as the embryo sac, which contains the egg cell. It is known that embryo sacs are active participants in guiding the growth of pollen tubes, in facilitating fertilization, and in initiating seed development. However, the genes responsible for the complex biology of embryo sacs are poorly understood. The authors use two recently developed technologies, whole-genome tiling microarrays and high-throughput cDNA sequencing, to identify hundreds of genes expressed in embryo sacs of Arabidopsis thaliana. Most embryo sac–dependent genes have no known function, and include entire families of related genes that are only expressed in embryo sacs. Furthermore, most embryo sac–dependent genes encode small proteins that are potentially secreted from their cells of origin, suggesting that they may act as intracellular signals or to modify the extracellular matrix during fertilization or embryo sac development. These results illustrate the extent to which our understanding of plant sexual reproduction is limited and identifies hundreds of candidate genes for future studies investigating the molecular biology of the embryo sac.
PMCID: PMC2014789  PMID: 17937500
3.  The impact of plant and flower age on mating patterns 
Annals of Botany  2009;105(1):7-22.
Over a season, plant condition, amount of ongoing reproduction and biotic and abiotic environmental factors vary. As flowers age, flower condition and amount of pollen donated and received also vary. These internal and external changes are significant for fitness if they result in changes in reproduction and mating.
Literature from several fields was reviewed to provide a picture of the changes that occur in plants and flowers that can affect mating over a season. As flowers age, both the entire flower and individual floral whorls show changes in appearance and function. Over a season, changes in mating often appear as alteration in seed production vs. pollen donation. In several species, older, unpollinated flowers are more likely to self. If flowers are receiving pollen, staying open longer may increase the number of mates. In wild radish, for which there is considerable information on seed paternity, older flowers produce fewer seeds and appear to discriminate less among pollen donors. Pollen donor performance can also be linked to maternal plant age. Different pollinators and mates are available across the season. Also in wild radish, maternal plants appear to exert the most control over paternity when they are of intermediate age.
Although much is known about the characters of plants and flowers that can change over a season, there is less information on the effects of age on mating. Several studies document changes in self-pollination over time, but very few, other than those on wild radish, consider more subtle aspects of differential success of pollen donors over time.
PMCID: PMC2794063  PMID: 19875519
Mating patterns; plant age; flower age; wild radish; Raphanus
4.  Pre- and Post-harvest Influences on Seed Dormancy Status of an Australian Goodeniaceae species, Goodenia fascicularis 
Annals of Botany  2008;102(1):93-101.
Background and Aims
The period during which seeds develop on the parent plant has been found to affect many seed characteristics, including dormancy, through interactions with the environment. Goodenia fascicularis (Goodeniaceae) seeds were used to investigate whether seeds of an Australian native forb, harvested from different environments and produced at different stages of the reproductive period, differ in dormancy status.
During the reproductive phase, plants were grown ex situ in warm (39/21 °C) or cool (26/13 °C) conditions, with adequate or limited water availability. The physiological dormancy of resulting seeds was measured in terms of the germination response to warm stratification (34/20 °C, 100 % RH, darkness).
Key Results
Plants in the cool environment were tall and had high above-ground biomass, yet yielded fewer seeds over a shorter, later harvest period when compared with plants in the warm environment. Seeds from the cool environment also had higher viability and greater mass, despite a significant proportion (7 % from the cool-wet environment) containing no obvious embryo. In the warm environment, the reproductive phase was accelerated and plants produced more seeds despite being shorter and having lower above-ground biomass than those in the cool environment. Ten weeks of warm stratification alleviated physiological dormancy in seeds from all treatments resulting in 80–100 % germination. Seeds that developed at warm temperatures were less dormant (i.e. germination percentages were higher) than seeds from the cool environment. Water availability had less effect on plant and seed traits than air temperature, although plants with reduced soil moisture were shorter, had lower biomass and produced fewer, less dormant seeds than plants watered regularly.
Goodenia fascicularis seeds are likely to exhibit physiological dormancy regardless of the maternal environment. However, seeds collected from warm, dry environments are likely to be more responsive to warm stratification than seeds from cooler, wetter environments.
PMCID: PMC2712421  PMID: 18430743
Goodenia fascicularis; Goodeniaceae; Australia; physiological dormancy; seeds; temperature; soil moisture; maternal influence; climate
5.  Parental genetic distance and patterns in nonrandom mating and seed yield in predominately selfing Arabidopsis thaliana 
Plant Reproduction  2013;26(4):317-328.
In this study, we ask two questions: (1) Is reproductive success independent of parental genetic distance in predominately selfing plants? (2) In the absence of early inbreeding depression, is there substantial maternal and/or paternal variation in reproductive success in natural populations? Seed yield in single pollinations and proportion of seeds sired in mixed pollinations were studied in genetically defined accessions of the predominately selfing plant Arabidopsis thaliana by conducting two diallel crosses. The first diallel was a standard, single pollination design that we used to examine variance in seed yield. The second diallel was a mixed pollination design that utilized a standard pollen competitor to examine variance in proportion of seeds sired. We found no correlation between reproductive success and parental genetic distance, and self-pollen does not systematically differ in reproductive success compared to outcross pollen, suggesting that Arabidopsis populations do not experience embryo lethality due to early-acting inbreeding or outbreeding depression. We used these data to partition the contributions to total phenotypic variation from six sources, including maternal contributions, paternal contributions and parental interactions. For seed yield in single pollinations, maternal effects accounted for the most significant source of variance (16.6 %). For proportion of seeds sired in mixed pollinations, the most significant source of variance was paternal effects (17.9 %). Thus, we show that population-level genetic similarities, including selfing, do not correlate with reproductive success, yet there is still significant paternal variance under competition. This suggests two things. First, since these differences are unlikely due to early-acting inbreeding depression or differential pollen viability, this implicates natural variation in pollen germination and tube growth dynamics. Second, this strongly supports a model of fixation of pollen performance genes in populations, offering a focus for future genetic studies in differential reproductive success.
PMCID: PMC3825607  PMID: 23843176
Mate choice; Nonrandom mating; Seed yield; Inbreeding; Diallel; Pollen competition
6.  Effects of pollination timing on seed paternity and seed mass in Silene latifolia (Caryophyllaceae) 
Annals of Botany  2009;104(4):767-773.
Background and Aims
Competition among genetically different pollen donors within one recipient flower may play an important role in plant populations, increasing offspring genetic diversity and vigour. However, under field conditions stochastic pollen arrival times may result in disproportionate fertilization success of the first-arriving pollen, even to the detriment of the recipient plant's and offspring fitness. It is therefore critical to evaluate the relative importance of arrival times of pollen from different donors in determining siring success.
Hand pollinations and genetic markers were used to investigate experimentally the effect of pollination timing on seed paternity, seed mass and stigmatic wilting in the the dioecious plant Silene latifolia. In this species, high prevalence of multiply-sired fruits in natural populations suggests that competition among different donors may often take place (at fertilization or during seed development); however, the role of variation due to pollen arrival times is not known.
Key Results
First-arriving pollen sired significantly more seeds than later-arriving pollen. This advantage was expressed already before the first pollen tubes could reach the ovary. Simultaneously with pollen tube growth, the stigmatic papillae wilted visibly. Individual seeds were heavier in fruits where one donor sired most seeds than in fruits where both donors had more even paternity shares.
In field populations of S. latifolia, fruits are often multiply-sired. Because later-arriving pollen had decreased chances of fertilizing the ovules, this implies that open-pollinated flowers often benefit from pollen carry-over or pollinator visits within short time intervals, which may contribute to increase offspring genetic diversity and fitness.
PMCID: PMC2729624  PMID: 19567418
Reproduction; reproductive success; pollen; siring success; microsatellite DNA; paternity; pollen tube growth; seed mass; Silene alba; stigma wilting
7.  Imprinting of the Polycomb Group Gene MEDEA Serves as a Ploidy Sensor in Arabidopsis 
PLoS Genetics  2009;5(9):e1000663.
Balanced maternal and paternal genome contributions are a requirement for successful seed development. Unbalanced contributions often cause seed abortion, a phenomenon that has been termed “triploid block.” Misregulation of imprinted regulatory genes has been proposed to be the underlying cause for abnormalities in growth and structure of the endosperm in seeds with deviating parental contributions. We identified a mutant forming unreduced pollen that enabled us to investigate direct effects of unbalanced parental genome contributions on seed development and to reveal the underlying molecular mechanism of dosage sensitivity. We provide evidence that parent-of-origin–specific expression of the Polycomb group (PcG) gene MEDEA is causally responsible for seed developmental aberrations in Arabidopsis seeds with increased paternal genome contributions. We propose that imprinted expression of PcG genes is an evolutionary conserved mechanism to balance parental genome contributions in embryo nourishing tissues.
Author Summary
Crosses between plants of different ploidy often fail because seed development does not proceed normally and non-viable seeds are produced. It is assumed that abnormalities in growth and structure of the endosperm (the nutritional tissue of the seed) are the cause of triploid seed failure, consistent with the proposed role of the endosperm in reproductive isolation and angiosperm speciation. In many species, the ratio of maternal to paternal genomes in the endosperm is important for normal seed development, giving rise to the hypothesis that parent-of-origin–specific gene expression (imprinting) of regulatory genes in the endosperm is the underlying cause for developmental failure in seeds with deviating parental contributions. We tested this hypothesis using the jason mutant that forms unreduced male gametes and triploid seeds with increased paternal genome dosage. Based on the results of our study, we propose that imprinting of the FIS component MEDEA serves as a dosage sensor for increasing paternal genome contributions, establishing the molecular basis for dosage sensitivity. Our study provides strong evidence supporting the hypothesis that misbalanced expression of imprinted genes is the cause of seed development defects after interploidy crosses and demonstrates that MEDEA imprinting is a major origin of developmental defects caused by increased paternal genome contributions.
PMCID: PMC2738949  PMID: 19779546
8.  Genome-Wide Transcript Profiling of Endosperm without Paternal Contribution Identifies Parent-of-Origin–Dependent Regulation of AGAMOUS-LIKE36 
PLoS Genetics  2011;7(2):e1001303.
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.
Author Summary
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.
PMCID: PMC3040660  PMID: 21379330
9.  The Parental Non-Equivalence of Imprinting Control Regions during Mammalian Development and Evolution 
PLoS Genetics  2010;6(11):e1001214.
In mammals, imprinted gene expression results from the sex-specific methylation of imprinted control regions (ICRs) in the parental germlines. Imprinting is linked to therian reproduction, that is, the placenta and imprinting emerged at roughly the same time and potentially co-evolved. We assessed the transcriptome-wide and ontology effect of maternally versus paternally methylated ICRs at the developmental stage of setting of the chorioallantoic placenta in the mouse (8.5dpc), using two models of imprinting deficiency including completely imprint-free embryos. Paternal and maternal imprints have a similar quantitative impact on the embryonic transcriptome. However, transcriptional effects of maternal ICRs are qualitatively focused on the fetal-maternal interface, while paternal ICRs weakly affect non-convergent biological processes, with little consequence for viability at 8.5dpc. Moreover, genes regulated by maternal ICRs indirectly influence genes regulated by paternal ICRs, while the reverse is not observed. The functional dominance of maternal imprints over early embryonic development is potentially linked to selection pressures favoring methylation-dependent control of maternal over paternal ICRs. We previously hypothesized that the different methylation histories of ICRs in the maternal versus the paternal germlines may have put paternal ICRs under higher mutational pressure to lose CpGs by deamination. Using comparative genomics of 17 extant mammalian species, we show here that, while ICRs in general have been constrained to maintain more CpGs than non-imprinted sequences, the rate of CpG loss at paternal ICRs has indeed been higher than at maternal ICRs during evolution. In fact, maternal ICRs, which have the characteristics of CpG-rich promoters, have gained CpGs compared to non-imprinted CpG-rich promoters. Thus, the numerical and, during early embryonic development, functional dominance of maternal ICRs can be explained as the consequence of two orthogonal evolutionary forces: pressure to tightly regulate genes affecting the fetal-maternal interface and pressure to avoid the mutagenic environment of the paternal germline.
Author Summary
In mammals, a subset of genes is expressed from only one chromosomal copy, depending on its parental origin. This process, known as genomic imprinting, results from DNA methylation marks deposited in gametes at regulatory sequences called imprinting control regions (ICRs). Most of the DNA methylation controlling imprinting is established in the oocyte, while very few ICRs are methylated in the sperm. We provided insight into the impact and origins of the parental imbalance in genomic imprinting control. We defined the transcriptome-wide effect of imprinting, during the transition period when the embryo becomes dependent upon maternal resources. We found that maternal ICRs have a vital effect on developmental pathways related to the mother-to-fetus exchanges, while paternal ICRs have a dispersed and non-significant effect at that stage. We evidenced that paternal ICRs are lost at a much faster rate than maternal ICRs during mammalian evolution, probably as a mechanistic consequence of different kinetics of the parental germlines. Our results support the notion that two independent evolutionary forces have led to the numerical and functional dominance of maternal ICRs: a selective advantage of parent-specific regulation of genes important for the fetal-maternal interface and pressure to avoid the mutagenic environment of the paternal germline.
PMCID: PMC2987832  PMID: 21124941
10.  A Genome-Wide Survey of Imprinted Genes in Rice Seeds Reveals Imprinting Primarily Occurs in the Endosperm 
PLoS Genetics  2011;7(6):e1002125.
Genomic imprinting causes the expression of an allele depending on its parental origin. In plants, most imprinted genes have been identified in Arabidopsis endosperm, a transient structure consumed by the embryo during seed formation. We identified imprinted genes in rice seed where both the endosperm and embryo are present at seed maturity. RNA was extracted from embryos and endosperm of seeds obtained from reciprocal crosses between two subspecies Nipponbare (Japonica rice) and 93-11 (Indica rice). Sequenced reads from cDNA libraries were aligned to their respective parental genomes using single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs). Reads across SNPs enabled derivation of parental expression bias ratios. A continuum of parental expression bias states was observed. Statistical analyses indicated 262 candidate imprinted loci in the endosperm and three in the embryo (168 genic and 97 non-genic). Fifty-six of the 67 loci investigated were confirmed to be imprinted in the seed. Imprinted loci are not clustered in the rice genome as found in mammals. All of these imprinted loci were expressed in the endosperm, and one of these was also imprinted in the embryo, confirming that in both rice and Arabidopsis imprinted expression is primarily confined to the endosperm. Some rice imprinted genes were also expressed in vegetative tissues, indicating that they have additional roles in plant growth. Comparison of candidate imprinted genes found in rice with imprinted candidate loci obtained from genome-wide surveys of imprinted genes in Arabidopsis to date shows a low degree of conservation, suggesting that imprinting has evolved independently in eudicots and monocots.
Author Summary
The expression of maternal or paternal alleles in either a preferentially or exclusively uniparental manner, termed imprinting, is prevalent in the transient endosperm of seeds in the model plant Arabidopsis. Cereals form seeds where both the embryo and endosperm are present at seed maturity. They are an important world food source. To date, very few imprinted genes have been identified in cereal seeds. How parental gene expression biases contribute to rice seed development has not yet been studied in detail. The deep resolution of transcript sequencing platforms was used to identify loci expressed in a parentally biased manner in the embryo and endosperm of Indica and Japonica rice at a genome-wide level. We identified 262 candidate imprinted loci expressed in the endosperm, experimentally verified 56 of these, and found novel features pertaining to their expression. Only one gene was found to be imprinted in the rice embryo. Imprinting in Arabidopsis and rice seeds is confined primarily to the endosperm, but the identified loci do not share extensive sequence conservation. Imprinting thus appears to have evolved independently in these plant species.
PMCID: PMC3121744  PMID: 21731498
11.  Heterochromatin, small RNA and post-fertilization dysgenesis in allopolyploid and interploid hybrids of Arabidopsis 
The New phytologist  2010;186(1):46-53.
In manylants, including Arabidopsis, hybrids between species and subspecies encounter postfertilization barriers in which hybrid seed fail to develop, or else give rise to infertile progeny. In Arabidopsis, some of these barriers are sensitive to ploidy and to the epigenetic status of donor and recipient genomes. Recently, a role has been proposed for heterochromatin in reprogramming events that occur in reproductive cells, as well as in the embryo and endosperm after fertilization. 21 nt small interfering RNA (siRNA) from activated transposable elements accumulate in pollen, and are translocated from companion vegetative cells into the sperm, while in the maturing seed 24 nt siRNA are primarily maternal in origin. Thus maternal and paternal genomes likely contribute differing small RNA to the zygote and to the endosperm. As heterochromatic sequences also differ radically between, and within, species, small RNA sequences will diverge in hybrids. If transposable elements in the seed are not targeted by small RNA from the pollen, or vice versa, this could lead to hybrid seed failure, in a mechanism reminiscent of hybrid dysgenesis in Drosophila. Heterochromatin also plays a role in apomixis and nucleolar dominance, and may utilize a similar mechanism.
PMCID: PMC3756494  PMID: 20409176
allopolyploidy; dosage; hybrid lethality; siRNA; transposon
12.  Increased Maternal Genome Dosage Bypasses the Requirement of the FIS Polycomb Repressive Complex 2 in Arabidopsis Seed Development 
PLoS Genetics  2013;9(1):e1003163.
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.
Author Summary
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.
PMCID: PMC3542072  PMID: 23326241
13.  The Female Gametophyte 
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.
PMCID: PMC3268550  PMID: 22303279
14.  Floral longevity and autonomous selfing are altered by pollination and water availability in Collinsia heterophylla 
Annals of Botany  2013;112(5):821-828.
Background and Aims
A plant investing in reproduction partitions resources between flowering and seed production. Under resource limitation, altered allocations may result in floral trait variations, leading to compromised fecundity. Floral longevity and timing of selfing are often the traits most likely to be affected. The duration of corolla retention determines whether fecundity results from outcrossing or by delayed selfing-mediated reproductive assurance. In this study, the role of pollination schedules and soil water availability on floral longevity and seed production is tested in Collinsia heterophylla (Plantaginaceae).
Using three different watering regimes and pollination schedules, effects on floral longevity and seed production were studied in this protandrous, flowering annual.
Key Results
The results reveal that soil water status and pollination together influence floral longevity with low soil water and hand-pollinations early in the floral lifespan reducing longevity. However, early pollinations under excess water did not extend longevity, implying that resource surplus does not lengthen the outcrossing period. The results also indicate that pollen receipt, a reliable cue for fecundity, accelerates flower drop. Early corolla abscission under drought stress could potentially exacerbate sexual conflict in this protandrous, hermaphroditic species by ensuring self-pollen paternity and enabling male control of floral longevity. While pollination schedules did not affect fecundity, water stress reduced per-capita seed numbers. Unmanipulated flowers underwent delayed autonomous selfing, producing very few seeds, suggesting that inbreeding depression may limit benefits of selfing.
In plants where herkogamy and dichogamy facilitate outcrossing, floral longevity determines reproductive success and mating system. Reduction in longevity under drought suggests a strong environmental effect that could potentially alter the preferred breeding mode in this mixed-mated species. Extrapolating the findings to unpredictable global drought cycles, it is suggested that in addition to reducing yield, water stress may influence the evolutionary trajectory of plant mating system.
PMCID: PMC3747799  PMID: 23884393
Autonomous selfing; Collinsia heterophylla; drought stress; floral longevity; herkogamy; Plantaginaceae; reproductive success; resource allocation; sexual conflict
15.  Requirement of proline synthesis during Arabidopsis reproductive development 
BMC Plant Biology  2012;12:191.
Gamete and embryo development are crucial for successful reproduction and seed set in plants, which is often the determining factor for crop yield. Proline accumulation was largely viewed as a specific reaction to overcome stress conditions, while recent studies suggested important functions of proline metabolism also in reproductive development. Both the level of free proline and proline metabolism were proposed to influence the transition to flowering, as well as pollen and embryo development.
In this study, we performed a detailed analysis of the contribution of individual proline biosynthetic enzymes to vegetative development and reproductive success in Arabidopsis. In contrast to previous reports, we found that pyrroline-5-carboxylate (P5C) synthetase 2 (P5CS2) is not essential for sexual reproduction although p5cs2 mutant plants were retarded in vegetative development and displayed reduced fertility under long-day conditions. Single mutant plants devoid of P5CS1 did not show any developmental defects. Simultaneous absence of both P5CS isoforms resulted in pollen sterility, while fertile egg cells could still be produced. Expression of P5C reductase (P5CR) was indispensable for embryo development but surprisingly not needed for pollen or egg cell fertility. The latter observation could be explained by an extreme stability of P5CR activity, which had a half-life time of greater than 3 weeks in vitro. Expression of P5CR-GFP under the control of the endogenous P5CR promoter was able to restore growth of homozygous p5cr mutant embryos. The analysis of P5CR-GFP-fluorescence in planta supported an exclusively cytoplasmatic localisation of P5CR.
Our results demonstrate that potential alternative pathways for proline synthesis or inter-generation transfer of proline are not sufficient to overcome a defect in proline biosynthesis from glutamate during pollen development. Proline biosynthesis through P5CS2 and P5CR is limiting for vegetative and reproductive development in Arabidopsis, whereas disruption of P5CS1 alone does not affect development of non-stressed plants.
PMCID: PMC3493334  PMID: 23062072
Proline metabolism; Gamete and embryo development; Enzyme stability; Subcellular localisation
16.  Glycerol-3-phosphate acyltransferase 4 is essential for the normal development of reproductive organs and the embryo in Brassica napus  
Journal of Experimental Botany  2014;65(15):4201-4215.
This study revealed critical physiological roles for BnGPAT4s in reproductive organ and embryo development. This information adds further to knowledge on the physiological roles of these multifunctional enzymes in plant development.
The enzyme sn-glycerol-3-phosphate acyltransferase 4 (GPAT4) is involved in the biosynthesis of plant lipid poly-esters. The present study further characterizes the enzymatic activities of three endoplasmic reticulum-bound GPAT4 isoforms of Brassica napus and examines their roles in the development of reproductive organs and the embryo. All three BnGPAT4 isoforms exhibited sn-2 acyltransferase and phosphatase activities with dicarboxylic acid-CoA as acyl donor. When non-substituted acyl-CoA was used as acyl donor, the rate of acylation was considerably lower and phosphatase activity was not manifested. RNA interference (RNAi)-mediated down-regulation of all GPAT4 homologues in B. napus under the control of the napin promoter caused abnormal development of several reproductive organs and reduced seed set. Microscopic examination and reciprocal crosses revealed that both pollen grains and developing embryo sacs of the B. napus gpat4 lines were affected. The gpat4 mature embryos showed decreased cutin content and altered monomer composition. The defective embryo development further affected the oil body morphology, oil content, and fatty acid composition in gpat4 seeds. These results suggest that GPAT4 has a critical role in the development of reproductive organs and the seed of B. napus.
PMCID: PMC4112632  PMID: 24821955
Brassica napus; cutin biosynthesis; embryo development; female fertility; GPAT; reproductive organ.
17.  Mutation in SUMO E3 ligase, SIZ1, Disrupts the Mature Female Gametophyte in Arabidopsis 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(1):e29470.
Female gametophyte is the multicellular haploid structure that can produce embryo and endosperm after fertilization, which has become an attractive model system for investigating molecular mechanisms in nuclei migration, cell specification, cell-to-cell communication and many other processes. Previous reports found that the small ubiquitin-like modifier (SUMO) E3 ligase, SIZ1, participated in many processes depending on particular target substrates and suppression of salicylic acid (SA) accumulation. Here, we report that SIZ1 mediates the reproductive process. SIZ1 showed enhanced expression in female organs, but was not detected in the anther or pollen. A defect in the siz1-2 maternal source resulted in reduced seed-set regardless of high SA concentration within the plant. Moreover, aniline blue staining and scanning electron microscopy revealed that funicular and micropylar pollen tube guidance was arrested in siz1-2 plants. Some of the embryo sacs of ovules in siz1-2 were also disrupted quickly after stage FG7. There was no significant affects of the siz1-2 mutation on expression of genes involved in female gametophyte development- or pollen tube guidance in ovaries. Together, our results suggest that SIZ1 sustains the stability and normal function of the mature female gametophyte which is necessary for pollen tube guidance.
PMCID: PMC3253799  PMID: 22253727
18.  A Statistical Model for Estimating Maternal-Zygotic Interactions and Parent-of-Origin Effects of QTLs for Seed Development 
PLoS ONE  2008;3(9):e3131.
Proper development of a seed requires coordinated exchanges of signals among the three components that develop side by side in the seed. One of these is the maternal integument that encloses the other two zygotic components, i.e., the diploid embryo and its nurturing annex, the triploid endosperm. Although the formation of the embryo and endosperm contains the contributions of both maternal and paternal parents, maternally and paternally derived alleles may be expressed differently, leading to a so-called parent-of-origin or imprinting effect. Currently, the nature of how genes from the maternal and zygotic genomes interact to affect seed development remains largely unknown. Here, we present a novel statistical model for estimating the main and interaction effects of quantitative trait loci (QTLs) that are derived from different genomes and further testing the imprinting effects of these QTLs on seed development. The experimental design used is based on reciprocal backcrosses toward both parents, so that the inheritance of parent-specific alleles could be traced. The computing model and algorithm were implemented with the maximum likelihood approach. The new strategy presented was applied to study the mode of inheritance for QTLs that control endoreduplication traits in maize endosperm. Monte Carlo simulation studies were performed to investigate the statistical properties of the new model with the data simulated under different imprinting degrees. The false positive rate of imprinting QTL discovery by the model was examined by analyzing the simulated data that contain no imprinting QTL. The reciprocal design and a series of analytical and testing strategies proposed provide a standard procedure for genomic mapping of QTLs involved in the genetic control of complex seed development traits in flowering plants.
PMCID: PMC2519836  PMID: 18769549
19.  Developmental changes in the germinability, desiccation tolerance, hardseededness, and longevity of individual seeds of Trifolium ambiguum 
Annals of Botany  2010;105(6):1035-1052.
Background and Aims
Using two parental clones of outcrossing Trifolium ambiguum as a potential model system, we examined how during seed development the maternal parent, number of seeds per pod, seed position within the pod, and pod position within the inflorescence influenced individual seed fresh weight, dry weight, water content, germinability, desiccation tolerance, hardseededness, and subsequent longevity of individual seeds.
Near simultaneous, manual reciprocal crosses were carried out between clonal lines for two experiments. Infructescences were harvested at intervals during seed development. Each individual seed was weighed and then used to determine dry weight or one of the physiological behaviour traits.
Key Results
Whilst population mass maturity was reached at 33–36 days after pollination (DAP), seed-to-seed variation in maximum seed dry weight, when it was achieved, and when maturation drying commenced, was considerable. Individual seeds acquired germinability between 14 and 44 DAP, desiccation tolerance between 30 and 40 DAP, and the capability to become hardseeded between 30 and 47 DAP. The time for viability to fall to 50 % (p50) at 60 % relative humidity and 45 °C increased between 36 and 56 DAP, when the seed coats of most individuals had become dark orange, but declined thereafter. Individual seed f. wt at harvest did not correlate with air-dry storage survival period. Analysing survival data for cohorts of seeds reduced the standard deviation of the normal distribution of seed deaths in time, but no sub-population showed complete uniformity of survival period.
Variation in individual seed behaviours within a developing population is inherent and inevitable. In this outbreeder, there is significant variation in seed longevity which appears dependent on embryo genotype with little effect of maternal genotype or architectural factors.
PMCID: PMC2876000  PMID: 20228084
Seed development; seed-to-seed variation; seed longevity; seed coat colour; cohort and population measurements; model system; Trifolium ambiguum
20.  Male fertility versus sterility, cytotype, and DNA quantitative variation in seed production in diploid and tetraploid sea lavenders (Limonium sp., Plumbaginaceae) reveal diversity in reproduction modes 
Sexual Plant Reproduction  2012;25(4):305-318.
The genus Limonium Miller, a complex taxonomic group, comprises annuals and perennials that can produce sexual and/or asexual seeds (apomixis). In this study, we used diverse cytogenetic and cytometric approaches to analyze male sporogenesis and gametogenesis for characterizing male reproductive output on seed production in Limonium ovalifolium and Limonium multiflorum. We showed here that the first species is mostly composed of diploid cytotypes with 2n = 16 chromosomes and the latter species by tetraploid cytotypes with 2n = 32, 34, 35, 36 chromosomes and had a genome roughly twice as big as the former one. In both species, euploid and aneuploid cytotypes with large metacentric chromosomes having decondensed interstitial sites were found within and among populations, possibly involved in chromosomal reconstructions. L. ovalifolium diploids showed regular meiosis resulting in normal tetrads, while diverse chromosome pairing and segregation irregularities leading to the formation of abnormal meiotic products are found in balanced and non-balanced L. multiflorum tetraploids. Before anther dehiscence, the characteristic unicellular, bicellular, or tricellular pollen grains showing the typical Limonium micro- or macro-reticulate exine ornamentation patterns were observed in L. ovalifolium using scanning electron microscopy. Most of these grains were viable and able to produce pollen tubes in vitro. In both balanced and unbalanced L. multiflorum tetraploids, microspores only developed until the “ring-vacuolate stage” with a collapsed morphology without the typical exine patterns, pointing to a sporophytic defect. These microspores were unviable and therefore never germinated in vitro. L. ovalifolium individuals presented larger pollen grains than those of L. multiflorum, indicating that pollen size and ploidy levels are not correlated in the Limonium system. Cytohistological studies in mature seeds from both species revealed that an embryo and a residual endosperm were present in each seed. Flow cytometric seed screens using such mature seeds showed quantitative variations in seeds ploidy level. It is concluded that male function seems to play an important role in the reproduction modes of Limonium diploids and tetraploids.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1007/s00497-012-0199-y) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC3493662  PMID: 23086613
Apomixis; Genome size; Limonium; Male sporogenesis; Male gametogenesis; Polyploidy
21.  Pollen source effects on growth of kernel structures and embryo chemical compounds in maize 
Annals of Botany  2009;104(2):325-334.
Background and Aims
Previous studies have reported effects of pollen source on the oil concentration of maize (Zea mays) kernels through modifications to both the embryo/kernel ratio and embryo oil concentration. The present study expands upon previous analyses by addressing pollen source effects on the growth of kernel structures (i.e. pericarp, endosperm and embryo), allocation of embryo chemical constituents (i.e. oil, protein, starch and soluble sugars), and the anatomy and histology of the embryos.
Maize kernels with different oil concentration were obtained from pollinations with two parental genotypes of contrasting oil concentration. The dynamics of the growth of kernel structures and allocation of embryo chemical constituents were analysed during the post-flowering period. Mature kernels were dissected to study the anatomy (embryonic axis and scutellum) and histology [cell number and cell size of the scutellums, presence of sub-cellular structures in scutellum tissue (starch granules, oil and protein bodies)] of the embryos.
Key Results
Plants of all crosses exhibited a similar kernel number and kernel weight. Pollen source modified neither the growth period of kernel structures, nor pericarp growth rate. By contrast, pollen source determined a trade-off between embryo and endosperm growth rates, which impacted on the embryo/kernel ratio of mature kernels. Modifications to the embryo size were mediated by scutellum cell number. Pollen source also affected (P < 0·01) allocation of embryo chemical compounds. Negative correlations among embryo oil concentration and those of starch (r = 0·98, P < 0·01) and soluble sugars (r = 0·95, P < 0·05) were found. Coincidently, embryos with low oil concentration had an increased (P < 0·05–0·10) scutellum cell area occupied by starch granules and fewer oil bodies.
The effects of pollen source on both embryo/kernel ratio and allocation of embryo chemicals seems to be related to the early established sink strength (i.e. sink size and sink activity) of the embryos.
PMCID: PMC2710899  PMID: 19482878
Zea mays; maize; pollen; kernel; embryo; endosperm; oil; protein; starch; soluble sugars
22.  Effects of APETALA2 on embryo, endosperm, and seed coat development determine seed size in Arabidopsis 
Sexual Plant Reproduction  2009;22(4):277-289.
Arabidopsis APETALA2 (AP2) controls seed mass maternally, with ap2 mutants producing larger seeds than wild type. Here, we show that AP2 influences development of the three major seed compartments: embryo, endosperm, and seed coat. AP2 appears to have a significant effect on endosperm development. ap2 mutant seeds undergo an extended period of rapid endosperm growth early in development relative to wild type. This early expanded growth period in ap2 seeds is associated with delayed endosperm cellularization and overgrowth of the endosperm central vacuole. The subsequent period of moderate endosperm growth is also extended in ap2 seeds largely due to persistent cell divisions at the endosperm periphery. The effect of AP2 on endosperm development is mediated by different mechanisms than parent-of-origin effects on seed size observed in interploidy crosses. Seed coat development is affected; integument cells of ap2 mutants are more elongated than wild type. We conclude that endosperm overgrowth and/or integument cell elongation create a larger postfertilization embryo sac into which the ap2 embryo can grow. Morphological development of the embryo is initially delayed in ap2 compared with wild-type seeds, but ap2 embryos become larger than wild type after the bent-cotyledon stage of development. ap2 embryos are able to fill the enlarged postfertilization embryo sac, because they undergo extended periods of cell proliferation and seed filling. We discuss potential mechanisms by which maternally acting AP2 influences development of the zygotic embryo and endosperm to repress seed size.
PMCID: PMC2796121  PMID: 20033449
AP2; Maternal control; Seed development; Seed mass
23.  Arabidopsis thaliana mitogen-activated protein kinase 6 is involved in seed formation and modulation of primary and lateral root development 
Journal of Experimental Botany  2013;65(1):169-183.
Arabidopsis MAP kinases are considered to have redundant functions. However, through a detailed phenotypic analysis, we demonstrated that MPK6 loss-of- function cause severe defects in embryo development, which are closed related with alterations in post-germination root development
Mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPKs) cascades are signal transduction modules highly conserved in all eukaryotes regulating various aspects of plant biology, including stress responses and developmental programmes. In this study, we characterized the role of MAPK 6 (MPK6) in Arabidopsis embryo development and in post-embryonic root system architecture. We found that the mpk6 mutation caused altered embryo development giving rise to three seed phenotypes that, post-germination, correlated with alterations in root architecture. In the smaller seed class, mutant seedlings failed to develop the primary root, possibly as a result of an earlier defect in the division of the hypophysis cell during embryo development, but they had the capacity to develop adventitious roots to complete their life cycle. In the larger class, the MPK6 loss of function did not cause any evident alteration in seed morphology, but the embryo and the mature seed were bigger than the wild type. Seedlings developed from these bigger seeds were characterized by a primary root longer than that of the wild type, accompanied by significantly increased lateral root initiation and more and longer root hairs. Apparently, the increment in primary root growth resulted from an enhanced cell production and cell elongation. Our data demonstrated that MPK6 plays an important role during embryo development and acts as a repressor of primary and lateral root development.
PMCID: PMC3883294  PMID: 24218326
Arabidopsis; embryo development; MAP kinases; MPK6; plant signalling; root development.
24.  Programmed cell death (PCD): an essential process of cereal seed development and germination 
The life cycle of cereal seeds can be divided into two phases, development and germination, separated by a quiescent period. Seed development and germination require the growth and differentiation of new tissues, but also the ordered disappearance of cells, which takes place by a process of programmed cell death (PCD). For this reason, cereal seeds have become excellent model systems for the study of developmental PCD in plants. At early stages of seed development, maternal tissues such as the nucellus, the pericarp, and the nucellar projections undergo a progressive degeneration by PCD, which allows the remobilization of their cellular contents for nourishing new filial tissues such as the embryo and the endosperm. At a later stage, during seed maturation, the endosperm undergoes PCD, but these cells remain intact in the mature grain and their contents will not be remobilized until germination. Thus, the only tissues that remain alive when seed development is completed are the embryo axis, the scutellum and the aleurone layer. In germinating seeds, both the scutellum and the aleurone layer play essential roles in producing the hydrolytic enzymes for the mobilization of the storage compounds of the starchy endosperm, which serve to support early seedling growth. Once this function is completed, scutellum and aleurone cells undergo PCD; their contents being used to support the growth of the germinated embryo. PCD occurs with tightly controlled spatial-temporal patterns allowing coordinated fluxes of nutrients between the different seed tissues. In this review, we will summarize the current knowledge of the tissues undergoing PCD in developing and germinating cereal seeds, focussing on the biochemical features of the process. The effect of hormones and redox regulation on PCD control will be discussed.
PMCID: PMC4112785  PMID: 25120551
cereal; development; germination; plant; programmed cell death; seed
25.  Perturbing the metabolic dynamics of myo-inositol in developing Brassica napus seeds through in vivo methylation impacts its utilization as phytate precursor and affects downstream metabolic pathways 
BMC Plant Biology  2013;13:84.
myo-Inositol (Ins) metabolism during early stages of seed development plays an important role in determining the distributional relationships of some seed storage components such as the antinutritional factors, sucrose galactosides (also known as raffinose oligosaccharides) and phytic acid (PhA) (myo-inositol 1,2,3,4,5,6-hexakisphosphate). The former is a group of oligosaccharides, which plays a role in desiccation at seed maturation. They are not easily digested by monogastric animals, hence their flatulence-causing properties. Phytic acid is highly negatively charged, which chelates positive ions of essential minerals and decreases their bioavailability. It is also a major cause of phosphate-related water pollution. Our aim was to investigate the influence of competitive diversion of Ins as common substrate on the biosynthesis of phytate and sucrose galactosides.
We have studied the initial metabolic patterns of Ins in developing seeds of Brassica napus and determined that early stages of seed development are marked by rapid deployment of Ins into a variety of pathways, dominated by interconversion of polar (Ins phosphates) and non-polar (phospholipids) species. In a time course experiment at early stages of seed development, we show Ins to be a highly significant constituent of the endosperm and seed coat, but with no phytate biosynthesis occurring in either tissue. Phytate accumulation appears to be confined mainly within the embryo throughout seed development and maturation. In our approach, the gene for myo-inositol methyltransferase (IMT), isolated from Mesembryanthemum crystallinum (ice plant), was transferred to B. napus under the control of the seed-specific promoters, napin and phaseolin. Introduction of this new metabolic step during seed development prompted Ins conversion to the corresponding monomethyl ether, ononitol, and affected phytate accumulation. We were able to produce homozygous transgenic lines with 19% - 35% average phytate reduction. Additionally, changes in the raffinose content and related sugars occurred along with enhanced sucrose levels. Germination rates, viability and other seed parameters were unaffected by the IMT transgene over-expression.
Competitive methylation of Ins during seed development reduces seed antinutritional components and enhances its nutritional characteristics while maintaining adequate phosphate reserves. Such approach should potentially raise the canola market value and likely, that of other crops.
PMCID: PMC3680054  PMID: 23692661
Brassica napus; Seed coat; Protein translation; Ononitol; Seed development; myo-Inositol methyltransferase; Phytic acid; Sucrose; Raffinose oligosaccharides; Galactinol

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