Crop Biotech Update

Duo1 Plays Linchpin Roles in Plant Fertilization

March 27, 2009

Unlike in animals, fertilization in plants involves two pairs of sperm and egg cells. One pair will join to produce the embryo and the other pair will fuse in the ovary to produce the nutrient-rich endosperm. A mystery in this double fertilization process was how each single pollen grain could produce the pair of sperm cells needed for fertility and seed production. Recently, scientists from the University of Leicester in the United Kingdom, led by David Twell, identified a gene that plays a critical role in allowing precursor reproductive cells to divide to form twin sperm cells. Their study appears in the recent issue of PloS Genetics.

The gene, Duo1, plays a dual role: it promotes the division of sperm precursor cells while at the same time promoting their specialized function as sperm cells. Twell noted that the findings "will be helpful in understanding the mechanisms and evolution of gamete development in flowering plants and may be useful in the control of gene flow and crossing behavior in crop plants."

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