Epigenetic mechanisms in the endosperm and their consequences for the evolution of flowering plants

Biochim Biophys Acta. 2011 Aug;1809(8):438-43. doi: 10.1016/j.bbagrm.2011.04.004. Epub 2011 Apr 27.


The sudden rise of angiosperms to ecological dominance was an "abominable mystery" to Charles Darwin, and understanding the underlying evolutionary driving force has remained a scientific challenge since then. The recognition of polyploidization as an important factor for plant speciation is likely to hold a key to this mystery and we will discuss possible mechanisms underlying this phenomenon. Polyploidization raises an immediate reproductive barrier in the endosperm, pointing towards an important but greatly underestimated role of the endosperm in preventing interploidy hybridizations. Parent-of-origin-specific gene expression is largely restricted to the endosperm, providing an explanation for the dosage sensitivity of the endosperm. Here, we review epigenetic mechanisms causing endosperm dosage sensitivity, their possible consequences for raising interploidy and interspecies hybridization barriers and their impact on flowering plant evolution. This article is part of a Special Issue entitled: Epigenetic Control.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Biological Evolution
  • Endosperm / genetics
  • Endosperm / growth & development
  • Endosperm / metabolism
  • Epigenesis, Genetic*
  • Gene Dosage
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Developmental
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Plant
  • Genomic Imprinting
  • Hybridization, Genetic
  • Magnoliopsida / genetics*
  • Magnoliopsida / growth & development*
  • Magnoliopsida / metabolism
  • Models, Genetic
  • Plant Proteins / genetics
  • Plant Proteins / metabolism
  • Polycomb-Group Proteins
  • Polyploidy
  • Repressor Proteins / genetics
  • Repressor Proteins / metabolism


  • Plant Proteins
  • Polycomb-Group Proteins
  • Repressor Proteins