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A positive signal from the fertilization of the egg cell sets off endosperm proliferation in angiosperm embryogenesis

Abstract

Double fertilization of the egg cell and the central cell by one sperm cell each produces the diploid embryo and the typically triploid endosperm and is one of the defining characteristics of flowering plants (angiosperms). Endosperm and embryo develop in parallel to form the mature seed, but little is known about the coordination between these two organisms. We characterized a mutation of the Arabidopsis thaliana Cdc2 homolog CDC2A (also called CDKA;1), which has a paternal effect. In cdc2a mutant pollen, only one sperm cell, instead of two, is produced. Mutant pollen is viable but can fertilize only one cell in the embryo sac, allowing for a genetic dissection of the double fertilization process. We observed exclusive fertilization of the egg cell by cdc2a sperm cells. Moreover, we found that unfertilized endosperm developed, suggesting that a previously unrecognized positive signal from the fertilization of the egg cell initiates proliferation of the central cell.

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Figure 1: T-DNA insertion mutations of the A. thaliana gene CDC2A.
Figure 2: Phenotype of cdc2a pollen.
Figure 3: Embryo sac development in plants fertilized with cdc2a pollen.

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Acknowledgements

We thank N. Dissmeyer, M. Heese, G. Jürgens, M. Lenhard and R. O'Connell for critical reading and comments on the manuscript; H. Hillebrand for help with the statistical analysis; A. Chaudhury for the homozygous fis1 mutant line; the Salk Institute Genomic Analysis Laboratory for providing the sequence-indexed A. thaliana T-DNA insertion mutants; and the Arabidopsis Biological Resource Center for providing seeds and BACs. M.K.N. is a fellow of the International Max-Planck-Research School. P.E.G. was supported by the Norwegian Research Council and the Norwegian Arabidopsis Research Centre, a part of the Norwegian Research Council National Programme for Research in Functional Genomics. This work was supported by a grant of the Volkswagen-Stiftung to A.S.

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Correspondence to Arp Schnittger.

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Supplementary information

Supplementary Fig. 1

cdka;1-1 is a null allele. (PDF 682 kb)

Supplementary Fig. 2

Viability and in vitro germination ability of cdka;1 mutant pollen. (PDF 847 kb)

Supplementary Table 1

Transmission of the cdka;1-1 allele. (PDF 103 kb)

Supplementary Table 2

Endosperm development of Col-0 X cdka1-1+/− plants carrying proCDKA;1:GUS fertilization marker. (PDF 102 kb)

Supplementary Table 3

Primer sequences and binding sites. (PDF 98 kb)

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Nowack, M., Grini, P., Jakoby, M. et al. A positive signal from the fertilization of the egg cell sets off endosperm proliferation in angiosperm embryogenesis. Nat Genet 38, 63–67 (2006). https://doi.org/10.1038/ng1694

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