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Plant Mol Biol. 2000 Oct;44(3):283-301.

Programmed cell death during endosperm development.

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  • 1Department of Biochemistry, University of California, Riverside 92521-0129, USA.


The endosperm of cereals functions as a storage tissue in which the majority of starch and seed storage proteins are synthesized. During its development, cereal endosperm initiates a cell death program that eventually affects the entire tissue with the exception of the outermost cells, which differentiate into the aleurone layer and remain living in the mature seed. To date, the cell death program has been described for maize and wheat endosperm, which exhibits common and unique elements for each species. The progression of endosperm programmed cell death (PCD) in both species is accompanied by an increase in nuclease activity and the internucleosomal degradation of nuclear DNA, hallmarks of apoptosis in animals. Moreover, ethylene and abscisic acid are key to mediating PCD in cereal endosperm. The progression of the cell death program in developing maize endosperm follows a highly organized pattern whereas in wheat endosperm, PCD initiates stochastically. Although the essential characteristics of cereal endosperm PCD are now known, the molecular mechanisms responsible for its execution remain to be identified.

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