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PLoS One. 2008 May 28;3(5):e2298. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0002298.

DNA methylation causes predominant maternal controls of plant embryo growth.

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Chromatin and reproduction Group, Temasek Life Sciences Laboratory, National University of Singapore, Department of Biological Sciences, Singapore, Singapore.


The parental conflict hypothesis predicts that the mother inhibits embryo growth counteracting growth enhancement by the father. In plants the DNA methyltransferase MET1 is a central regulator of parentally imprinted genes that affect seed growth. However the relation between the role of MET1 in imprinting and its control of seed size has remained unclear. Here we combine cytological, genetic and statistical analyses to study the effect of MET1 on seed growth. We show that the loss of MET1 during male gametogenesis causes a reduction of seed size, presumably linked to silencing of the paternal allele of growth enhancers in the endosperm, which nurtures the embryo. However, we find no evidence for a similar role of MET1 during female gametogenesis. Rather, the reduction of MET1 dosage in the maternal somatic tissues causes seed size increase. MET1 inhibits seed growth by restricting cell division and elongation in the maternal integuments that surround the seed. Our data demonstrate new controls of seed growth linked to the mode of reproduction typical of flowering plants. We conclude that the regulation of embryo growth by MET1 results from a combination of predominant maternal controls, and that DNA methylation maintained by MET1 does not orchestrate a parental conflict.

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