A. Koltunow, Susan D. Johnson, J. Rodrigues
Jun 1, 2011
The Plant journal : for cell and molecular biology
Asexual seed formation, or apomixis, in the Hieracium subgenus Pilosella is controlled by two dominant independent genetic loci, LOSS OF APOMEIOSIS (LOA) and LOSS OF PARTHENOGENESIS (LOP). We examined apomixis mutants that had lost function in one or both loci to establish their developmental roles during seed formation. In apomicts, sexual reproduction is initiated first. Somatic aposporous initial (AI) cells differentiate near meiotic cells, and the sexual pathway is terminated as AI cells undergo mitotic embryo sac formation. Seed initiation is fertilization-independent. Using a partially penetrant cytotoxic reporter to inhibit meioisis, we showed that developmental events leading to the completion of meiotic tetrad formation are required for AI cell formation. Sexual initiation may therefore stimulate activity of the LOA locus, which was found to be required for AI cell formation and subsequent suppression of the sexual pathway. AI cells undergo nuclear division to form embryo sacs, in which LOP functions gametophytically to stimulate fertilization-independent embryo and endosperm formation. Loss of function in either locus results in partial reversion to sexual reproduction, and loss of function in both loci results in total reversion to sexual reproduction. Therefore, in these apomicts, sexual reproduction is the default reproductive mode upon which apomixis is superimposed. These loci are unlikely to encode genes essential for sexual reproduction, but may function to recruit the sexual machinery at specific time points to enable apomixis.