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Plant Cell. 2000 Dec;12(12):2367-2382.

Mutations in the FIE and MEA genes that encode interacting polycomb proteins cause parent-of-origin effects on seed development by distinct mechanisms.

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  • 1Department of Plant and Microbial Biology, University of California, Berkeley, California 94720-3102, USA.


In flowering plants, two cells are fertilized in the haploid female gametophyte. Egg and sperm nuclei fuse to form the embryo. A second sperm nucleus fuses with the central cell nucleus, which replicates to generate the endosperm, a tissue that supports embryo development. The FERTILIZATION-INDEPENDENT ENDOSPERM (FIE) and MEDEA (MEA) genes encode WD and SET domain polycomb proteins, respectively. In the absence of fertilization, a female gametophyte with a loss-of-function fie or mea allele initiates endosperm development without fertilization. fie and mea mutations also cause parent-of-origin effects, in which the wild-type maternal allele is essential and the paternal allele is dispensable for seed viability. Here, we show that FIE and MEA polycomb proteins interact physically, suggesting that the molecular partnership of WD and SET domain polycomb proteins has been conserved during the evolution of flowering plants. The overlapping expression patterns of FIE and MEA are consistent with their suppression of gene transcription and endosperm development in the central cell as well as their control of seed development after fertilization. Although FIE and MEA interact, differences in maternal versus paternal patterns of expression, as well as the effect of a recessive mutation in the DECREASE IN DNA METHYLATION1 (DDM1) gene on mutant allele transmission, indicate that fie and mea mutations cause parent-of-origin effects on seed development by distinct mechanisms.

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