Pattern formation during early ovule development in Arabidopsis thaliana

Dev Biol. 2004 Sep 15;273(2):321-34. doi: 10.1016/j.ydbio.2004.05.037.


Ovules of higher plants are the precursors of seeds. Ovules emerge from placental tissue inside the gynoecium of flowers. Three elements, funiculus, chalaza, and nucellus, can be distinguished along the proximal-distal axis of the outgrowing radially symmetrical ovule primordium. The asymmetric initiation of the outer integument marks the switch to adaxial-abaxial development, which leads to the formation of a bilaterally symmetrical ovule. The putative transcriptional regulator NOZZLE (NZZ) plays a role in mediating this transition by controlling the timing of expression of the putative transcriptional regulator INNER NO OUTER (INO) in an abaxial domain of the chalaza, from where the outer integument initiates. Integument formation depends on the homeobox gene WUSCHEL (WUS), which is expressed in the nucellus and is sufficient to induce integuments non-cell autonomously from a region adjacent to its expression domain. In this study, we describe the expression pattern of the homeobox-leucine zipper gene PHABULOSA (PHB) during ovule development, demonstrating that adaxial-abaxial polarity is established from the very beginning of ovule development. Furthermore, we examined the expression pattern of PHB, INO, and WUS in ovules of plants, which are affected in integument initiation and thus defective in the transition from proximal-distal to adaxial-abaxial development. We found that NZZ is required to restrict PHB expression to the distal chalaza, from where the inner integument initiates. PHB expression is not established in the distal chalaza of two mutants, aintegumenta (ant) and wus, which fail to form integuments. Furthermore, we suggest that one mechanism by which WUS controls integument formation is by establishing the chalaza and that outer and inner integument identity determination depends on additional region-specific factors. In addition, we present evidence that NZZ is essential for the normal nucellar expression pattern of WUS. Thus, both WUS and PHB affect processes downstream of NZZ action during the transition from proximal--distal to adaxial--abaxial ovule development.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Arabidopsis / genetics
  • Arabidopsis / growth & development*
  • Arabidopsis Proteins / genetics
  • Base Sequence
  • Biological Evolution
  • Body Patterning
  • DNA, Plant / genetics
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Developmental
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Plant
  • Genes, Plant
  • Homeodomain Proteins / genetics
  • Microscopy, Electron, Scanning
  • Mutation
  • Nuclear Proteins / genetics
  • Repressor Proteins / genetics
  • Transcription Factors / genetics


  • Arabidopsis Proteins
  • DNA, Plant
  • Homeodomain Proteins
  • INO protein, Arabidopsis
  • Nuclear Proteins
  • PHB protein, Arabidopsis
  • Repressor Proteins
  • SPL protein, Arabidopsis
  • Transcription Factors
  • WUSCHEL protein, Arabidopsis