Mixing maternal and paternal genomes in embryos is not only responsible for the evolutionary success of sexual reproduction, but is also a cornerstone of plant breeding. However, once an interesting gene combination is obtained, further genetic mixing is problematic. To rapidly fix genetic information, doubled haploid plants can be produced: haploid embryos having solely the genetic information from one parent are allowed to develop, and chromosome doubling generates fully homozygous plants. A powerful path to the production of doubled haploids is based on haploid inducer lines. A simple cross between a haploid inducer line and the line with gene combinations to be fixed will trigger haploid embryo development. However, the exact mechanism behind in planta haploid induction remains an enduring mystery. The recent discoveries of molecular actors triggering haploid induction in the maize crop and the model Arabidopsis thaliana pinpoint an essential role of processes related to gamete development, gamete interactions and genome stability. These findings enabled translation of haploid induction capacity to other crops as well as the use of haploid inducer lines to deliver genome editing machinery into various crop varieties. These recent advances not only hold promise for the next generations of plant breeding strategies, but they also provide a deeper insight into the fundamental bases of sexual reproduction in plants.
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We apologize to authors whose research could not be discussed here due to space restrictions. We thank M. Bodin and M. Philippot for their help with Table 1. We also thank J. Xicluna and O. Hamant for the critical reading of the abstract. This research was supported by the ANR grant (no. ANR-19-CE20-0012) to T.W., and by pack ambition recherche from the Région Auvergne-Rhone-Alpes (HD-INNOV) to T.W. N.M.A.J. and L.M.G. were supported by CIFRE PhD fellowships from ANRT funding agency (grant nos. 2019/0771 and 2015/0777, respectively).
N.M.A.J, L.M.G. and J.-P.M. are employees of LIMAGRAIN Europe. The authors also have pending patent applications (PCT/EP2016/060202 (published as WO2016177887) and EP3091076).
Peer review information Nature Plants thanks Andreas Houben, Weicai Yang and the other, anonymous, reviewer(s) for their contribution to the peer review of this work.
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Jacquier, N.M.A., Gilles, L.M., Pyott, D.E. et al. Puzzling out plant reproduction by haploid induction for innovations in plant breeding. Nat. Plants 6, 610–619 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41477-020-0664-9