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A mutational approach to the study of seed development in maize

Silvana Dolfini, Gabriella Consonni, Corrado Viotti, Mauro Dal Prà, Giuliana Saltini, Anna Giulini, Roberto Pilu, Antonino Malgioglio and Giuseppe Gavazzi
Journal of Experimental Botany
Vol. 58, No. 5 (2007), pp. 1197-1205
Published by: Oxford University Press
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/24036578
Page Count: 9
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A mutational approach to the study of seed development in maize
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Abstract

The maize seed comprises two major compartments, the embryo and the endosperm, both originating from the double fertilization event. The embryogenetic process allows the formation of a well-differentiated embryonic axis, surrounded by a single massive cotyledon, the scutellum. The mature endosperm constitutes the bulk of the seed and comprises specific regions containing reserve proteins, complex carbohydrates, and oils. To gain more insight into molecular events that underlie seed development, three monogenic mutants were characterized, referred to as emp (empty pericarp) on the basis of their extreme endosperm reduction, first recognizable at about 12 d after pollination. Their histological analysis reveals a partial development of the endosperm domains as well as loss of adhesion between pedicel tissues and the basal transfer layer. In the endosperm, programmed cell death (PCD) is delayed. The embryo appears retarded in its growth, but not impaired in its morphogenesis. The mutants can be rescued by culturing immature embryos, even though the seedlings appear retarded in their growth. The analysis of seeds with discordant embryo–endosperm phenotype (mutant embryo, normal endosperm and vice-versa), obtained using B–A translocations, suggests that emp expression in the embryo is necessary, but not sufficient, for proper seed development. In all three mutants the picture emerging is one of a general delay in processes related to growth, as a result of a mutation affecting endosperm development as a primary event.

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