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Nat Plants. 2019 Jul;5(7):663-669. doi: 10.1038/s41477-019-0466-0. Epub 2019 Jul 8.

Building new insights in plant gametogenesis from an evolutionary perspective.

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Gregor Mendel Institute, Austrian Academy of Sciences, Vienna BioCenter, Vienna, Austria.
Graduate School of Science and Technology, Nara Institute of Science and Technology, Ikoma, Japan.
Graduate School of Biostudies, Kyoto University, Kyoto, Japan.
Department of Plant and Soil Sciences, University of Kentucky, Lexington, KY, USA.
Kihara Institute for Biological Research, Yokohama City University, Yokohama, Japan.
Gregor Mendel Institute, Austrian Academy of Sciences, Vienna BioCenter, Vienna, Austria.


Extant bryophytes are thought to preserve characteristics of ancestral land plants, with a life cycle dominated by the haploid gametophyte. The gametophyte produces gametes in specialized organs that differentiate after an extensive phase of vegetative development. During land plant evolution, these organs became extremely reduced. As a result, in flowers of angiosperms the haploid phase of the life cycle is reduced to few-celled gametophytes, namely the embryo sac (female) and pollen (male). Although many factors contributing to gametogenesis have been identified in flowering plants, the extreme reduction of the gametophytes has prevented a clear molecular dissection of key processes of gametogenesis. Recent studies in the model bryophyte Marchantia polymorpha have identified conserved transcription factors regulating the equivalent steps in the sexual reproduction of land plants. These include FEMALE GAMETOPHYTE MYB for female gametophyte development, BONOBO for gamete progenitor cell specification, DUO POLLEN1 for sperm differentiation and members of the RWP-RK domain family for female gamete formation. These studies demonstrate that M. polymorpha is a powerful model to untangle the core processes of gametogenesis in land plants. We anticipate that a deeper understanding of gametogenesis in bryophytes will circumscribe the origin of plant germ cells and define the differentiation programmes of sperm and eggs.


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