Maternal control of higher plant seed development is likely to involve female sporophytic as well as female gametophytic genes. While numerous female sporophytic mutants control the production of the ovule and the embryo sac true maternal effect mutations affecting embryo and endosperm development are rare in plants. A new class of female gametophytic mutants has been isolated that controls autonomous development of endosperm. Molecular analyses of these genes, known as FIS class genes, suggest that they repress downstream seed development genes by chromatin remodelling. Expression of the FIS genes in turn is modulated by parent specific expression or genomic imprinting which in turn is controlled by DNA methylation. Thus maternal control of seed development is a complex developmental event influenced by both genetic and epigenetic processes.
Copyright 2001 Academic Press.