Arabidopsis EMBRYOMAKER encoding an AP2 domain transcription factor plays a key role in developmental change from vegetative to embryonic phase

Plant Mol Biol. 2010 Jul;73(4-5):481-92. doi: 10.1007/s11103-010-9634-3. Epub 2010 Apr 20.


Although several types of plant cells retain the competence to enter into embryonic development without fertilization, the molecular mechanism(s) underlying ectopic embryogenesis is largely unknown. To gain insight into this mechanism, in a previous study we identified 136 ESTs specifically expressed in microspore embryogenesis of Brassica napus. Here, we describe the characterization of the Arabidopsis EMBRYOMAKER (EMK) gene, which is homologous to one of the identified Brassica ESTs (BnGemb-58) and encodes an AP2 domain transcription factor. The AtEMK was expressed in developing and mature embryos, but its rapid disappearance occurred during germination. After germination, the expression of AtEMK was found in the root apical meristem and the distal parts of cotyledons. Although a mutant lacking AtEMK exhibited no distinctive defects in the embryo, ectopic expression of AtEMK induced embryo-like structures from cotyledons. The embryo-like structures contained high concentration of lipids, expressed several embryo-specific genes, and could convert into independent plants, indicating that the structures are somatic embryos. In vitro culture, AtEMK enhanced the efficiency of somatic embryogenesis. Furthermore, ectopic expression of AtEMK caused the formation of trichomes on cotyledons, dedifferentiated several tissues into calli, and retarded root development, demonstrating that AtEMK is harmful for the normal development of plants after germination. From these results, we conclude that the AtEMK is a key player to maintain embryonic identity, and the rapid disappearance of AtEMK expression during germination is essential for the developmental transition between the embryonic and vegetative phases in plants.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Arabidopsis / embryology*
  • Arabidopsis / genetics
  • Arabidopsis Proteins / chemistry
  • Arabidopsis Proteins / genetics
  • Arabidopsis Proteins / metabolism*
  • Brassica napus / metabolism
  • Cotyledon / growth & development
  • Cotyledon / metabolism
  • Embryonic Development / genetics
  • Gene Expression Profiling
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Developmental
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Plant
  • Hypocotyl / growth & development
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Organ Specificity / genetics
  • Phenotype
  • Phylogeny
  • Plant Roots / growth & development
  • Plant Roots / metabolism
  • Protein Structure, Tertiary
  • Seeds / embryology*
  • Seeds / genetics
  • Tissue Culture Techniques
  • Transcription Factor AP-2 / chemistry*
  • Transcription Factors / chemistry
  • Transcription Factors / genetics
  • Transcription Factors / metabolism*


  • Arabidopsis Proteins
  • EMK protein, Arabidopsis
  • Transcription Factor AP-2
  • Transcription Factors