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Section of Molecular and Cellular Biology, Division of Biological Sciences, University of California, One Shields Avenue, Davis, California 95616; e-mail:


Ovules are the direct precursors of seeds and thus play central roles in sexual plant reproduction and human nutrition. Extensive classical studies have elucidated the evolutionary trends and developmental processes responsible for the current wide variety of ovule morphologies. Recently, ovules have been perceived as an attractive system for the study of genetic regulation of plant development. More than a dozen regulatory genes have now been identified through isolation of ovule mutants. Characterization of these mutants shows that some aspects of ovule development follow independent pathways, while other processes are interdependent. Some of these mutants have ovules resembling those of putative ancestors of angiosperms and may help in understanding plant evolution. Clones of several of the regulatory genes have been used to determine expression patterns and putative biochemical functions of the gene products. Newly constructed models of genetic regulation of ovule development provide a framework for interpretation of future discoveries.

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