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Plants Develop Ways of Controlling Embryo Growth

placental endosperm cells

This is a confocal laser scanning microcope image of an early embryo with surrounding placental endosperm cells.
Image credit: University of Warwick

A new generation of highly productive plants could come into being after the important change in the scientists’ understanding about the way in which plants develop.

The international study taken by the team from University of Warwick, published in the journal Science, shows the first evidence that plants, by emitting information from surrounding cells, have evolved approaches to control the growth and development of embryo.

The research led by Dr Jose Gutierrez-Marcos from Warwick’s School of Life Sciences, demonstrated that female sex cells and the placenta-like endosperm contained within plant seeds could give out special signals to developing embryos which would be helpful in directing their growth.

Dr Gutierrez-Marcos said that this new information could completely change the understanding of scientist about plant development and pave the new way for further research focusing on the breeding and propagation of plants which would cover the most successful features of extant species.

Dr Gutierrez-Marcos added that owing to more population and changing climates all over the world, the demand for more robust plant varieties is becoming prevalent, and such varieties  would ensure higher yields and develop in the different environmental conditions.

In the efforts to understand the way in which plants control embryo growth, the scientists would explore the possibility of breeding a new generation of plants which could satisfy the globally increasing demands.

Being found within seeds, when they are germinated, plant embryos could lead to the adult plant. In the previous study, embryo development was thought to be decided by the genetic make-up of the embryo itself.

However, the result from the new research has demonstrated that specific cell-types existing in the embryo environment could give out protein signals to influence this process as well.

Such finding reflects a similar situation in mammals, whereby embryo development is controlled by signals which are given out by neighboring placental cells.

The researchers suggested that identifying the way in which these cells of non-embryonic origin could affect developing plant embryos, would be the important key to creating new, improved plant species, such as better hybrid crops, where for the time being embryos are unable to develop in a proper way when distantly-related parents are applied.

In summarizing their study, Dr Gutierrez-Marcos said that before their discovery, it was not clear that non-embryonic plant cells could direct embryo growth, but now they had collected much valuable information showing that neighboring cells could interact with and affect embryos directly, probably through a cascade of protein signals. The next step they were going to take was to identify the embryonic factors that reacted to such non-embryonic signals and try to know better about their mode of action.

Source: The University of Warwick

Journal Reference:

  1. L. M. Costa, E. Marshall, M. Tesfaye, K. A. T. Silverstein, M. Mori, Y. Umetsu, S. L. Otterbach, R. Papareddy, H. G. Dickinson, K. Boutiller, K. A. VandenBosch, S. Ohki, J. F. Gutierrez-Marcos. Central Cell-Derived Peptides Regulate Early Embryo Patterning in Flowering PlantsScience, 2014; 344 (6180): 168 DOI:10.1126/science.1243005