Anna M G Koltunow

The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, Canberra, Australian Capital Territory, Australia

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Publications (62)335.12 Total impact

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    ABSTRACT: Key message: Cowpea reproductive tools. Vigna unguiculata L. Walp. (cowpea) is recognized as a major legume food crop in Africa, but seed yields remain low in most varieties adapted to local conditions. The development of hybrid cowpea seed that could be saved after each generation, enabling significant yield increases, will require manipulation of reproductive development from a sexual to an asexual mode. To develop new technologies that could support the biotechnological manipulation of reproductive development in cowpea, we examined gametogenesis and seed formation in two transformable, African-adapted, day-length-insensitive varieties. Here, we show that these two varieties exhibit distinct morphological and phenological traits but share a common developmental sequence in terms of ovule formation and gametogenesis. We present a reproductive calendar that allows prediction of male and female gametogenesis on the basis of sporophytic parameters related to floral bud size and reproductive organ development, determining that gametogenesis occurs more rapidly in the anther than in the ovule. We also show that the mode of megagametogenesis is of the Polygonum-type and not Oenothera-type, as previously reported. Finally, we developed a whole-mount immunolocalization protocol and applied it to detect meiotic proteins in the cowpea megaspore mother cell, opening opportunities for comparing the dynamics of protein localization during male and female meiosis, as well as other reproductive events in this emerging legume model system.
    No preview · Article · Jan 2016 · Plant Reproduction
  • Melanie L. Hand · Sacco de Vries · Anna M. G. Koltunow
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    ABSTRACT: In plants, embryogenesis generally occurs through the sexual process of double fertilization, which involves a haploid sperm cell fusing with a haploid egg cell to ultimately give rise to a diploid embryo. Embryogenesis can also occur asexually in the absence of fertilization, both in vitro and in vivo. Somatic or gametic cells are able to differentiate into embryos in vitro following the application of plant growth regulators or stress treatments. Asexual embryogenesis also occurs naturally in some plant species in vivo, from either ovule cells as part of a process defined as apomixis, or from somatic leaf tissue in other species. In both in vitro and in vivo asexual embryogenesis, the embryo precursor cells must attain an embryogenic fate without the act of fertilization. This review compares the processes of in vitro and in vivo asexual embryogenesis including what is known regarding the genetic and epigenetic regulation of each process, and considers how the precursor cells are able to change fate and adopt an embryogenic pathway.
    No preview · Chapter · Jan 2016
  • Anna Koltunow · David S. Rabiger
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    ABSTRACT: Causal signals for seed initiation have been sought ever since double fertilization was discovered in 1898. New research reveals that auxin is an early driver of endosperm proliferation in Arabidopsis central cells, with or without fertilization.
    No preview · Article · Dec 2015
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    ABSTRACT: Evidence is presented for the role of a mitochondrial ribosomal (mitoribosomal) L18 protein in cell division, differentiation, and seed development after the characterization of a recessive mutant, heart stopper (hes). The hes mutant produced uncellularized endosperm and embryos arrested at the late globular stage. The mutant embryos differentiated partially on rescue medium with some forming callus. HES (At1g08845) encodes a mitochondrially targeted member of a highly diverged L18 ribosomal protein family. The substitution of a conserved amino residue in the hes mutant potentially perturbs mitoribosomal function via altered binding of 5S rRNA and/or influences the stability of the 50S ribosomal subunit, affecting mRNA binding and translation. Consistent with this, marker genes for mitochondrial dysfunction were up-regulated in the mutant. The slow growth of the endosperm and embryo indicates a defect in cell cycle progression, which is evidenced by the down-regulation of cell cycle genes. The down-regulation of other genes such as EMBRYO DEFECTIVE genes links the mitochondria to the regulation of many aspects of seed development. HES expression is developmentally regulated, being preferentially expressed in tissues with active cell division and differentiation, including developing embryos and the root tips. The divergence of the L18 family, the tissue type restricted expression of HES, and the failure of other L18 members to complement the hes phenotype suggest that the L18 proteins are involved in modulating development. This is likely via heterogeneous mitoribosomes containing different L18 members, which may result in differential mitochondrial functions in response to different physiological situations during development. © The Author 2015. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Society for Experimental Biology.
    No preview · Article · Jun 2015 · Journal of Experimental Botany
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    ABSTRACT: Apomixis in plants generates clonal progeny with a maternal genotype through asexual seed formation. Hieracium subgenus Pilosella (Asteraceae) contains polyploid, highly heterozygous apomictic and sexual species. Within apomictic Hieracium, dominant genetic loci independently regulate the qualitative developmental components of apomixis. In H. praealtum, LOSS OF APOMEIOSIS (LOA) enables formation of embryo sacs without meiosis and LOSS OF PARTHENOGENESIS (LOP) enables fertilization-independent seed formation. A locus required for fertilization-independent endosperm formation (AutE) has been identified in H. piloselloides. Additional quantitative loci appear to influence the penetrance of the qualitative loci, although the controlling genes remain unknown. This study aimed to develop the first genetic linkage maps for sexual and apomictic Hieracium species using simple sequence repeat (SSR) markers derived from expressed transcripts within the developing ovaries. RNA from microdissected Hieracium ovule cell types and ovaries was sequenced and SSRs were identified. Two different F1 mapping populations were created to overcome difficulties associated with genome complexity and asexual reproduction. SSR markers were analysed within each mapping population to generate draft linkage maps for apomictic and sexual Hieracium species. A collection of 14 684 Hieracium expressed SSR markers were developed and linkage maps were constructed for Hieracium species using a subset of the SSR markers. Both the LOA and LOP loci were successfully assigned to linkage groups; however, AutE could not be mapped using the current populations. Comparisons with lettuce (Lactuca sativa) revealed partial macrosynteny between the two Asteraceae species. A collection of SSR markers and draft linkage maps were developed for two apomictic and one sexual Hieracium species. These maps will support cloning of controlling genes at LOA and LOP loci in Hieracium and should also assist with identification of quantitative loci that affect the expressivity of apomixis. Future work will focus on mapping AutE using alternative populations. © The Author 2014. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Annals of Botany Company. All rights reserved. For Permissions, please email:
    No preview · Article · Dec 2014 · Annals of Botany
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    ABSTRACT: Arabidopsis END1-LIKE (AtEND1) was identified as a homolog of the barley endosperm-specific gene END1 and provides a model for the study of this class of genes and their products. The END1 is expressed in the endosperm transfer cells (ETC) of grasses. The ETC are responsible for transfer of nutrients from maternal tissues to the developing endosperm. Identification of several ETC-specific genes encoding lipid transfer proteins (LTP), including the END1, provided excellent markers for identification of ETC during seed development. To understand how AtEND1 forms complexes with lipid molecules, a three-dimensional (3D) molecular model was generated and reconciled with AtEND1 function. The spatial and temporal expression patterns of AtEND1 were examined in transgenic Arabidopsis plants transformed with an AtEND1 promoter-GUS fusion construct. The AtEND1 promoter was found to be seed and pollen specific. In contrast to ETC-specific expression of homologous genes in wheat and barley, expression of AtEND1 is less specific. It was observed in ovules and a few gametophytic tissues. A series of AtEND1 promoter deletions fused to coding sequence (CDS) of the uidA were transformed in Arabidopsis and the promoter region responsible for AtEND1 expression was identified. A 163 bp fragment of the promoter was found to be sufficient for both spatial and temporal patterns of expression reflecting that of AtEND1. Our data suggest that AtEND1 could be used as a marker gene for gametophytic tissues and developing endosperm. The role of the gene is unclear but it may be involved in fertilization and/or endosperm cellularization.
    Full-text · Article · Sep 2014 · Planta
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    M L Hand · P Vít · A Krahulcová · S D Johnson · K Oelkers · H Siddons · J Chrtek · J Fehrer · A M G Koltunow
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    ABSTRACT: The Hieracium and Pilosella (Lactuceae, Asteraceae) genera of closely related hawkweeds contain species with two different modes of gametophytic apomixis (asexual seed formation). Both genera contain polyploid species, and in wild populations, sexual and apomictic species co-exist. Apomixis is known to co-exist with sexuality in apomictic Pilosella individuals, however, apomictic Hieracium have been regarded as obligate apomicts. Here, a developmental analysis of apomixis within 16 Hieracium species revealed meiosis and megaspore tetrad formation in 1 to 7% of ovules, for the first time indicating residual sexuality in this genus. Molecular markers linked to the two independent, dominant loci LOSS OF APOMEIOSIS (LOA) and LOSS OF PARTHENOGENESIS (LOP) controlling apomixis in Pilosella piloselloides subsp. praealta were screened across 20 phenotyped Hieracium individuals from natural populations, and 65 phenotyped Pilosella individuals from natural and experimental cross populations, to examine their conservation, inheritance and association with reproductive modes. All of the tested LOA and LOP-linked markers were absent in the 20 Hieracium samples irrespective of their reproductive mode. Within Pilosella, LOA and LOP-linked markers were essentially absent within the sexual plants, although they were not conserved in all apomictic individuals. Both loci appeared to be inherited independently, and evidence for additional genetic factors influencing quantitative expression of LOA and LOP was obtained. Collectively, these data suggest independent evolution of apomixis in Hieracium and Pilosella and are discussed with respect to current knowledge of the evolution of apomixis.Heredity advance online publication, 16 July 2014; doi:10.1038/hdy.2014.61.
    Full-text · Article · Jul 2014 · Heredity
  • Melanie L Hand · Anna M G Koltunow
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    ABSTRACT: Apomixis (asexual seed formation) is the result of a plant gaining the ability to bypass the most fundamental aspects of sexual reproduction: meiosis and fertilization. Without the need for male fertilization, the resulting seed germinates a plant that develops as a maternal clone. This dramatic shift in reproductive process has been documented in many flowering plant species, although no major seed crops have been shown to be capable of apomixis. The ability to generate maternal clones and therefore rapidly fix desirable genotypes in crop species could accelerate agricultural breeding strategies. The potential of apomixis as a next-generation breeding technology has contributed to increasing interest in the mechanisms controlling apomixis. In this review, we discuss the progress made toward understanding the genetic and molecular control of apomixis. Research is currently focused on two fronts. One aims to identify and characterize genes causing apomixis in apomictic species that have been developed as model species. The other aims to engineer or switch the sexual seed formation pathway in non-apomictic species, to one that mimics apomixis. Here we describe the major apomictic mechanisms and update knowledge concerning the loci that control them, in addition to presenting candidate genes that may be used as tools for switching the sexual pathway to an apomictic mode of reproduction in crops.
    No preview · Article · Jun 2014 · Genetics
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    Miru Du · Ming Luo · Ruofang Zhang · E. Jean Finnegan · Anna M. G. Koltunow
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    ABSTRACT: Over 200 imprinted genes in rice endosperm are known, but the mechanisms modulating their parental allele-specific expression are poorly understood. Here we use three imprinted genes, OsYUCCA11, yellow2-like and ubiquitin hydrolase, to show that differential DNA methylation and trimethylation of histone H3 lysine 27 (H3K27me3) in the promoter and/or gene body influences allele-specific expression or the site of transcript initiation. Paternal expression of OsYUCCA11 required DNA methylation in the gene body whereas the gene body of the silenced maternal allele was hypomethylated and marked with H3K27me3. These differential markings mirror those proposed to modulate paternal expression of two Arabidopsis genes, PHERES1 and a YUCCA homolog, indicating conservation of imprinting mechanisms. At yellow2-like, DNA hypomethylation in the upstream flanking region resulted in maternal transcripts that were longer than paternal transcripts; the maternal transcript initiation site was marked by DNA methylation in the paternal allele, and transcription initiated ~700bp downstream. The paternal allele of an ubiquitin hydrolase gene exhibited gene body DNA methylation and produced full-length transcripts, while the maternal allele was hypomethylated in the 5′ gene body and transcripts initiated from a downstream promoter. Inhibition of DNA methylation by 5-azacytidine or zebularine activated the long transcripts from yellow2-like and enhanced expression of the short transcripts from the ubiquitin hydrolase in seedlings, indicating that DNA methylation prevents transcript initiation from cryptic promoters. These observations suggest a paradigm whereby maternal genome hypomethylation is associated with the production of distinct transcripts, potentially diversifying the gene products from the two alleles.This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.
    Preview · Article · May 2014 · The Plant Journal
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    ABSTRACT: Apomixis or asexual seed formation in Hieracium praealtum (Asteraceae) is controlled by two independent dominant loci. One of these, the LOSS OF APOMEIOSIS (LOA) locus, controls apomixis initiation, mitotic embryo sac formation (apospory) and suppression of the sexual pathway. The LOA locus is found near the end of a hemizygous chromosome surrounded by extensive repeats extending along the chromosome arm. Similar apomixis-carrying chromosome structures have been found in some apomictic grasses, suggesting that the extensive repetitive sequences may be functionally relevant to apomixis. Fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH) was used to examine chromosomes of apomeiosis deletion mutants and rare recombinants in the critical LOA region arising from a cross between sexual Hieracium pilosella and apomictic H. praealtum. The combined analyses of aposporous and nonaposporous recombinant progeny and chromosomal karyotypes were used to determine that the functional LOA locus can be genetically separated from the very extensive repeat regions found on the LOA-carrying chromosome. The large-scale repetitive sequences associated with the LOA locus in H. praealtum are not essential for apospory or suppression of sexual megasporogenesis (female meiosis).
    Preview · Article · Feb 2014 · New Phytologist
  • Daisuke Ogawa · Susan D Johnson · Steven T Henderson · Anna M G Koltunow
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    ABSTRACT: In apomictic Hieracium subgenus Pilosella species, embryo sacs develop in ovules without meiosis. Embryo and endosperm formation then occur without fertilization, producing seeds with a maternal genotype encased in a fruit (achene). Genetic analyses in H. praealtum indicate a dominant locus (LOA) controls meiotic avoidance, and another dominant locus (LOP) controls both fertilization-independent embryogenesis and endosperm formation. While cytologically examining developmental events in ovules of progeny from crosses between different wild-type and mutant Hieracium apomicts, and a sexual Hieracium species, we identified two plants, AutE196 and AutE24, which have lost the capacity for meiotic avoidance and fertilization-independent embryo formation. AutE196 and AutE24 exhibit autonomous endosperm formation and set parthenocarpic, seedless achenes at a penetrance of 18 %. Viable seed form after pollination. Cytological examination of 102 progeny from a backcross of AutE196 with sexual H. pilosella showed that autonomous endosperm formation is a heritable, dominant, qualitative trait, detected in 51 % of progeny. Variation in quantitative trait penetrance indicates other factors influence its expression. The correlation between autonomous endosperm development and mature parthenocarpic achene formation suggests the former is sufficient to trigger fruit maturation in Hieracium. The developmental component of autonomous endosperm formation is therefore genetically separable from those controlling meiotic avoidance and autonomous embryogenesis in Hieracium and has been denoted as AutE. We postulate that tight linkage of AutE and genes controlling autonomous embryogenesis at the LOP locus in H. praealtum may explain why inheritance of autonomous seed formation is typically observed as a single component.
    No preview · Article · Mar 2013 · Plant Reproduction
  • Anna M. G. Koltunow · Peggy Ozias-Akins · Imran Siddiqi
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    ABSTRACT: This chapter contains sections titled: Introduction Biology of Apomixis in Natural Systems Phylogenetic and Geographical Distribution of Apomixis Inheritance of Apomixis Genetic Diversity in Natural Apomictic Populations Molecular Relationships between Sexual and Apomictic Pathways Features of Chromosomes Carrying Apomixis Loci and Implications for Regulation of Apomixis Genes Associated with Apomixis Transferring Apomixis to Sexual Plants: Clues from Apomicts Synthetic Approach to Building Apomixis Synthetic Clonal Seed Formation Conclusion and Future Prospects References
    No preview · Chapter · Feb 2013
  • Chapter: Apomixis
    Anna Koltunow
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    ABSTRACT: Seeds contribute significantly to world food supply. Flowering plants mainly produce seeds by sexual reproduction, which is a driver of genetic diversity. The combination of meiosis during male and female gamete formation, and subsequent gamete fusion at fertilisation in the ovule of the flower to form the embryo compartment of the seed, leads to segregation of parental alleles in seedling progeny. A second fertilisation event generates the endosperm, a nutritive tissue supporting embryo growth and seedling germination. Remarkably, some flowering plants form seeds asexually by apomixis. Apomixis comprises an ensemble of developmental processes that together alter female reproductive functions in the ovule, converting the sexual programme to an asexual one. The result is that the apomictically derived embryo develops solely from cells in maternal ovule tissues and therefore seedling progeny are genetically identical to the mother. Apomixis is largely absent in important food crops. Harnessing apomixis as a technology in plant breeding would increase food yield and security. Key Concepts: Apomixis is an asexual mode of seed formation that produces clonal progeny with a maternal genotype. It primarily influences reproductive events in the ovule of the flower.Apomixis is absent in major crops, however, deployment of apomixis as a crop-breeding tool would economically maintain hybrid vigour that is currently lost in successive seed generations.Apomixis comprises three developmental components that deviate from the normal sexual pattern: avoidance of meiosis during egg cell development, fertilisation-independent embryo formation, and generation of viable endosperm with or without fertilisation.Angiosperms exhibit two mechanistically different types of apomixis termed sporophytic and gametophytic.Sporophytic apomixis involves direct formation of an embryo from a diploid somatic (nonsexual) ovule cell, and a viable seed forms when the adjacent sexual gametophyte is fertilised and forms endosperm.Gametophytic apomixis involves formation of a meiotically unreduced (i.e. diploid) female gametophyte, followed by embryo formation from the diploid egg by parthenogenesis (i.e. without fertilisation).In gametophytic apomixis, endosperm formation may occur autonomously (i.e. without fertilisation) or pseudogamously (i.e. in response to fertilisation of the central cell).Most apomicts retain the ability to produce some seed via sexual reproduction and studies in some apomicts indicate sexual reproduction is the default reproductive mode on which apomixis is superimposed.Apomixis is controlled by dominant loci and those controlling the avoidance of meiosis and fertilisation-independent embryo development are genetically separable in some species and tightly linked in others.Apomixis loci are proposed to recruit or hijack the sexual machinery in ovule cells undergoing apomixis, modifying the timing of the sexual programme so that meiosis and fertilisation are avoided leading to asexual seed formation.Keywords:apomixis;asexual reproduction;hybrid seed;meiotic avoidance;parthenogenesis;maternal seed;autonomous endosperm
    No preview · Chapter · Jul 2012
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    ABSTRACT: Female gamete development in Arabidopsis ovules comprises two phases. During megasporogenesis, a somatic ovule cell differentiates into a megaspore mother cell and undergoes meiosis to produce four haploid megaspores, three of which degrade. The surviving functional megaspore participates in megagametogenesis, undergoing syncytial mitosis and cellular differentiation to produce a multicellular female gametophyte containing the egg and central cell, progenitors of the embryo and endosperm of the seed. The transition between megasporogenesis and megagametogenesis is poorly characterised, partly owing to the inaccessibility of reproductive cells within the ovule. Here, laser capture microdissection was used to identify genes expressed in and/or around developing megaspores during the transition to megagametogenesis. ARGONAUTE5 (AGO5), a putative effector of small RNA (sRNA) silencing pathways, was found to be expressed around reproductive cells during megasporogenesis, and a novel semi-dominant ago5-4 insertion allele showed defects in the initiation of megagametogenesis. Expression of a viral RNAi suppressor, P1/Hc-Pro, driven by the WUSCHEL and AGO5 promoters in somatic cells flanking the megaspores resulted in a similar phenotype. This indicates that sRNA-dependent pathways acting in somatic ovule tissues promote the initiation of megagametogenesis in the functional megaspore. Notably, these pathways are independent of AGO9, which functions in somatic epidermal ovule cells to inhibit the formation of multiple megaspore-like cells. Therefore, one somatic sRNA pathway involving AGO9 restricts reproductive development to the functional megaspore and a second pathway, inhibited by ago5-4 and P1/Hc-Pro, promotes megagametogenesis.
    Full-text · Article · Mar 2012 · Development
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    ABSTRACT: Apomixis in Hieracium subgenus Pilosella initiates in ovules when sporophytic cells termed aposporous initial (AI) cells enlarge near sexual cells undergoing meiosis. AI cells displace the sexual structures and divide by mitosis to form unreduced embryo sac(s) without meiosis (apomeiosis) that initiate fertilization-independent embryo and endosperm development. In some Hieracium subgenus Pilosella species, these events are controlled by the dominant LOSS OF APOMEIOSIS (LOA) and LOSS OF PARTHENOGENESIS (LOP) loci. In H. praealtum and H. piloselloides, which both contain the same core LOA locus, the timing and frequency of AI cell formation is altered in derived mutants exhibiting abnormal funiculus growth and in transgenic plants expressing rolB which alters cellular sensitivity to auxin. The impact on apomictic and sexual reproduction was examined here when a chimeric RNAse gene was targeted to the funiculus and basal portions of the ovule, and also when polar auxin transport was inhibited during ovule development following N-1-naphthylphthalamic acid (NPA) application. Both treatments led to ovule deformity in the funiculus and distal parts of the ovule and LOA-dependent alterations in the timing, position, and frequency of AI cell formation. In the case of NPA treatment, this correlated with increased expression of DR5:GFP in the ovule, which marks the accumulation of the plant hormone auxin. Our results show that sporophytic information potentiated by funiculus growth and polar auxin transport influences ovule development, the initiation of apomixis, and the progression of embryo sac development in Hieracium. Signals associated with ovule pattern formation and auxin distribution or perception may influence the capacity of sporophytic ovule cells to respond to LOA.
    Full-text · Article · Feb 2012 · Journal of Experimental Botany
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    ABSTRACT: The LOSS OF APOMEIOSIS (LOA) locus is one of two dominant loci known to control apomixis in the eudicot Hieracium praealtum. LOA stimulates the differentiation of somatic aposporous initial cells after the initiation of meiosis in ovules. Aposporous initial cells undergo nuclear proliferation close to sexual megaspores, forming unreduced aposporous embryo sacs, and the sexual program ceases. LOA-linked genetic markers were used to isolate 1.2 Mb of LOA-associated DNAs from H. praealtum. Physical mapping defined the genomic region essential for LOA function between two markers, flanking 400 kb of identified sequence and central unknown sequences. Cytogenetic and sequence analyses revealed that the LOA locus is located on a single chromosome near the tip of the long arm and surrounded by extensive, abundant complex repeat and transposon sequences. Chromosomal features and LOA-linked markers are conserved in aposporous Hieracium caespitosum and Hieracium piloselloides but absent in sexual Hieracium pilosella. Their absence in apomictic Hieracium aurantiacum suggests that meiotic avoidance may have evolved independently in aposporous subgenus Pilosella species. The structure of the hemizygous chromosomal region containing the LOA locus in the three Hieracium subgenus Pilosella species resembles that of the hemizygous apospory-specific genomic regions in monocot Pennisetum squamulatum and Cenchrus ciliaris. Analyses of partial DNA sequences at these loci show no obvious conservation, indicating that they are unlikely to share a common ancestral origin. This suggests convergent evolution of repeat-rich hemizygous chromosomal regions containing apospory loci in these monocot and eudicot species, which may be required for the function and maintenance of the trait.
    Full-text · Article · Sep 2011 · Plant physiology
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    ABSTRACT: 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.
    Full-text · Article · Jun 2011 · PLoS Genetics
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    ABSTRACT: 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.
    Full-text · Article · Mar 2011 · The Plant Journal
  • Anna M G Koltunow · Susan D Johnson · Takashi Okada
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    ABSTRACT: Mendel used hawkweeds and other plants to verify the laws of inheritance he discovered using Pisum. Trait segregation was not evident in hawkweeds because many form seeds asexually by apomixis. Meiosis does not occur during female gametophyte formation and the mitotically formed embryo sacs do not require fertilization for seed development. The resulting progeny retain a maternal genotype. Hawkweeds in Hieracium subgenus Pilosella form mitotic embryo sacs by apospory. The initiation of sexual reproduction is required to stimulate apospory in ovules and to promote the function of the dominant locus, LOSS OF APOMEIOSIS, which stimulates the differentiation of somatic aposporous initial (AI) cells near sexually programmed cells. As AI cells undergo nuclear mitosis the sexual pathway terminates. The function of the dominant locus LOSS OF PARTHENOGENESIS in aposporous embryo sacs enables fertilization-independent embryo and endosperm development. Deletion of either locus results in partial reversion to sexual reproduction, and loss of function in both loci results in reversion to sexual development. In these apomicts, sexual reproduction is therefore the default reproductive mode upon which apomixis is superimposed. These loci are unlikely to encode factors critical for sexual reproduction but might recruit the sexual pathway to enable apomixis. Incomplete functional penetrance of these dominant loci is likely to lead to the generation of rare sexual progeny also derived from these facultative apomicts.
    No preview · Article · Feb 2011 · Journal of Experimental Botany
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    Gary N Drews · Anna M G Koltunow
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    ABSTRACT: 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.
    Preview · Article · Jan 2011 · The Arabidopsis Book

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3k Citations
335.12 Total Impact Points


  • 1997-2014
    • The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation
      • Division of Plant Industry
      Canberra, Australian Capital Territory, Australia
  • 1995
    • University of California, Los Angeles
      • Department of Molecular, Cell, and Developmental Biology (MCDB)
      Los Ángeles, California, United States
  • 1986-1987
    • University of Adelaide
      • School of Animal and Veterinary Sciences
      Tarndarnya, South Australia, Australia