Biotech Updates

Warwick Scientists Explain How Plants Control Embryo Growth and Development

April 16, 2014

University of Warwick scientists reported in the journal Science the first evidence that plants have evolved ways to control embryo growth and development by emitting information from surrounding cells. Dr. Jose Gutierrez-Marcos from Warwick's School of Life Sciences discovered that female sex cells and the placenta-like endosperm in plant seeds transmit specific signals to developing embryos to help direct their growth

Plant embryos are located in seeds and when these germinate, they give rise to the adult plant. It was previously believed that embryo development was determined by the genetic content of the embryo alone. However, the new study showed that specific cell-types present in the embryo environment can send out protein signals to also influence this process. This is similar with the scenario occurring in mammals whereby embryo development is controlled by signals sent out by neighbouring placental cells.

Understanding how these cells of non-embryonic origin can influence developing plant embryos, the researchers argue, is key to creating new, improved plant species including advantageous hybrid crops, where at present embryos often fail to develop properly when distantly-related parents are used.

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