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Nature. 2014 Oct 30;514(7524):624-7. doi: 10.1038/nature13620. Epub 2014 Sep 7.

Non-equivalent contributions of maternal and paternal genomes to early plant embryogenesis.

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Laboratorio Nacional de Genómica para la Biodiversidad (Langebio), Unidad de Genómica Avanzada, Centro de Investigación y de Estudios Avanzados del Instituto Politécnico Nacional (CINVESTAV-IPN), Irapuato, Guanajuato 36821, México.


Zygotic genome activation in metazoans typically occurs several hours to a day after fertilization, and thus maternal RNAs and proteins drive early animal embryo development. In plants, despite several molecular studies of post-fertilization transcriptional activation, the timing of zygotic genome activation remains a matter of debate. For example, two recent reports that used different hybrid ecotype combinations for RNA sequence profiling of early Arabidopsis embryo transcriptomes came to divergent conclusions. One identified paternal contributions that varied by gene, but with overall maternal dominance, while the other found that the maternal and paternal genomes are transcriptionally equivalent. Here we assess paternal gene activation functionally in an isogenic background, by performing a large-scale genetic analysis of 49 EMBRYO DEFECTIVE genes and testing the ability of wild-type paternal alleles to complement phenotypes conditioned by mutant maternal alleles. Our results demonstrate that wild-type paternal alleles for nine of these genes are completely functional 2 days after pollination, with the remaining 40 genes showing partial activity beginning at 2, 3 or 5 days after pollination. Using our functional assay, we also demonstrate that different hybrid combinations exhibit significant variation in paternal allele activation, reconciling the apparently contradictory results of previous transcriptional studies. The variation in timing of gene function that we observe confirms that paternal genome activation does not occur in one early discrete step, provides large-scale functional evidence that maternal and paternal genomes make non-equivalent contributions to early plant embryogenesis, and uncovers an unexpectedly profound effect of hybrid genetic backgrounds on paternal gene activity.

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