Hieracium is a member of the Asteraceae family, and contains sexual species in addition to apomictic species that reproduce by apospory and produce seed without fertilization. A homologue of the floral organ-identity gene DEFICIENS (DEF) was isolated from an apomictic line of Hieracium piloselloides (Vill.) following differential display between mature ovules and those initiating autonomous embryogenesis. The gene termed HPDEF has 93% amino acid identity with GDEF2, a DEF homologue isolated from Gerbera hybrida (D. Yu et al., 1999, Plant J. 17: 51-62), another member of the Asteraceae. In-situ analysis showed that early in floral development HPDEF is expressed in stamen and petal primordia, indicating expected B-function activity, according to the ABC model of floral organ identity (J. L. Bowman et al., 1991, Development 112: 1-20; E. S. Coen and E. M. Meyerowitz, 1991, Nature 353: 31-37). However, HPDEF expression was also observed in ovule primordia and expression continued in developing ovules until anthesis, indicating that this gene may have a role in ovule development. Expression of HPDEF was not detected in megaspore mother cells, or in sexual or aposporous embryo sacs. In sexual Hieracium, HPDEF was uniformly expressed throughout the ovule integument until anthesis. In most ovules of the apomict, however, HPDEF expression was transiently down-regulated in a specific zone in the chalazal region where cells initiating aposporous embryo sac formation differentiate. Uniform low-level HPDEF expression was subsequently observed prior to anthesis in ovules from sexual and apomictic plants. HPDEF may be down-regulated as a consequence of apomictic initiation and/or its down-regulation may facilitate progression of apomictic events.