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Curr Top Dev Biol. 1998;38:167-223.

Sex determination in plants.

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Plant Molecular Biology Laboratory, Wye College, University of London, Kent, United Kingdom.


The majority of flowering plants produce flowers that are "perfect." These flowers are both staminate (with stamens) and pistillate (with one or more carpels). In a small number of species, there is spatial separation of the sexual organs either as monoecy, where the male and female organs are carried on separate flowers on the same plant, or dioecy, where male and female flowers are carried on separate male (staminate) or female (pistillate) individuals. Sex determination systems in plants, leading to unisexuality as monoecy or dioecy, have evolved independently many times. In dioecious plant species, the point of divergence from the hermaphrodite pattern shows wide variation between species, implying that the genetic bases are very different. This review considers monoecious and dioecious flowering plants and focuses on the underlying genetic and molecular mechanisms. We propose that dioecy arises either from monoecy as an environmentally unstable system controlled by plant growth substances or from hermaphroditism where the underlying mechanisms are highly stable and control does not involve plant growth substances.

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