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Plant J. 2005 Jul;43(2):309-20.

Confocal microscopy of whole ovules for analysis of reproductive development: the elongate1 mutant affects meiosis II.

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Institute of Plant Biology & Zürich-Basel Plant Science Center, University of Zürich, Zollikerstrasse 107, CH-8008 Zurich, Switzerland.


Analysis of female meiosis (megasporogenesis) and embryo sac development (megagametogenesis) in angiosperms is technically challenging because the cells are enclosed within the nucellus and ovule tissues of the female flower. This is in contrast to male sporogenesis and gametogenesis where development can readily be observed through the easily dissectable developing anthers. Observation of embryo sac development is a particular problem in crassinucellate ovules such as those of maize. To overcome the problems in observing reproductive development, we developed a simple Feulgen staining procedure optimized for use with confocal microscopy to observe reproductive progression in the crassinucellate ovules of maize. The procedure greatly facilitates the observation of nuclei and cell structures of all stages of megasporogenesis and embryo sac development. The high resolution obtained using the technique enabled us to readily visualize chromosomes from individual cells within ovule tissue samples of maize. A propidium iodide staining technique was also used and compared with the Feulgen-based technique. Static cytometry of relative DNA content of individual nuclei was possible using Imaris software on both Feulgen and propidium iodide-stained samples. The techniques also proved successful for the observation of Arabidopsis and Hieracium aurantiacum female gametophyte and seed development, demonstrating the general applicability of the techniques. Using both staining methods, we analysed the maize meiotic mutant elongate1, which produces functional diploid instead of haploid embryo sacs. The precise defect in meiosis from which diploid embryo sacs arise in elongate1 has not previously been reported. We used confocal microscopy followed by static cytometry using Imaris software to show that the defect by which diploid embryo sacs arise in the maize mutant elongate1 is the absence of meiosis II with one of the dyad cells directly initiating megagametogenesis.

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