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Plant Physiol. 2010 Sep;154(1):163-72. doi: 10.1104/pp.110.160044. Epub 2010 Jul 12.

A fertilization-independent developmental program triggers partial fruit development and senescence processes in pistils of Arabidopsis.

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Instituto de Biología Molecular y Celular de Plantas, Universidad Politécnica de Valencia-Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas, Ciudad Politécnica de la Innovación, Valencia, Spain.


The pistil is the specialized plant organ that enables appropriate pollination and ovule fertilization, after which it undergoes growth and differentiation to become a fruit. However, in most species, if ovules are not fertilized around anthesis the pistil irreversibly loses its growth capacity. We used physiological, molecular, and transcriptomic tools to characterize the post-anthesis development of the unfertilized Arabidopsis (Arabidopsis thaliana) pistil. Surprisingly, developmental processes that have been previously described in developing Arabidopsis fruits, such as the collapse of the adaxial epidermis, differentiation of a sclerenchyma layer in the adaxial subepidermis and the dehiscence zone, and valve dehiscence, were also observed in the unfertilized pistil. We determined that senescence is first established in the transmitting tract, stigma, and ovules immediately after anthesis, and that the timing of senescence in the stigma and ovules correlates with the loss of fruit-set responsiveness of the pistil to pollen and the hormone gibberellin (GA), respectively. Moreover, we showed that mutants with altered ovule development have impaired fruit-set response to the GA gibberellic acid, which further indicates that the presence of viable ovules is required for fruit-set responsiveness to GAs in the unfertilized pistil. Our data suggest that a fertilization-independent developmental program controls many of the processes during post-anthesis development, both in unfertilized pistils and seeded fruits, and point to a key role of the ovule in the capacity of pistils to undergo fruit set in response to GA.

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