Polyploidization, a widespread phenomenon among plants, is considered a major speciation mechanism. Polyploid plants have a high degree of immediate post-zygotic reproductive isolation from their progenitors, as backcrossing to either parent will produce mainly nonviable progeny. This reproductive barrier is called triploid block and it is caused by malfunction of the endosperm. Nevertheless, the main route to polyploid formation is via unreduced gametes and unstable triploid progeny, suggesting that there are ways to overcome the triploid block. Until recently, the mechanistic basis for unreduced gamete formation and the triploid block were completely unknown. Recent developments have revealed genetic pathways leading to unreduced gamete formation as well as the underlying genetic basis for the triploid block in Arabidopsis. These novel findings will provide the basis for a genetic understanding of polyploid formation and subsequent speciation in plants.
Copyright 2009 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.