Family life at close quarters: communication and constraint in angiosperm seed development

Protoplasma. 2010 Dec;247(3-4):195-214. doi: 10.1007/s00709-010-0184-y. Epub 2010 Jul 27.


The formation of viable angiosperm seeds involves the co-ordinated growth and development of three genetically distinct organisms, the maternally derived seed coat and the zygotic embryo and endosperm. The physical relationships of these tissues are initially established during the specification and differentiation of the female gametophyte within the tissues of the developing ovule. The molecular programmes implicated in both ovule and seed development involve elements of globally important pathways (such as auxin signalling), as well as ovule- and seed-specific pathways. Recurrent themes, such as the precisely controlled death of specific cell types and the regulation of cell-cell communication and nutrition by the selective establishment of symplastic and apoplastic barriers, appear to play key roles in both pre- and post-fertilization seed development. Much of post-fertilization seed growth occurs during a key developmental window shortly after fertilization and involves the dramatic expansion of the young endosperm, constrained by surrounding maternal tissues. The complex tissue-specific regulation of carbohydrate metabolism in specific seed compartments has been shown to provide a driving force for this early seed expansion. The embryo, which is arguably the most important component of the seed, appears to be only minimally involved in early seed development. Given the evolutionary and agronomic importance of angiosperm seeds, the complex combination of communication pathways which co-ordinate their growth and development remains remarkably poorly understood.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Endosperm / growth & development
  • Endosperm / physiology
  • Gametogenesis, Plant*
  • Magnoliopsida / growth & development
  • Magnoliopsida / physiology*
  • Ovule / cytology
  • Ovule / growth & development
  • Seeds / growth & development
  • Seeds / physiology*