Unlike in animals, female gametes of flowering plants are not the direct products of meiosis but develop from a functional megaspore after three rounds of free mitotic divisions. After nuclei migration and positioning, the eight-nucleate syncytium differentiates into the embryo sac, which contains two female gametes as well as accessory cells at the micropylar and chalazal pole, respectively. We report that an egg-cell-specific gene, ZmEAL1, is activated at the micropylar pole of the eight-nucleate syncytium. ZmEAL1 translation is restricted to the egg cell, resulting in the generation of peptide-containing vesicles directed toward its chalazal pole. RNAi knockdown studies show that ZmEAL1 is required for robust expression of the proliferation-regulatory gene IG1 at the chalazal pole of the embryo sac in antipodal cells. We further show that ZmEAL1 is required to prevent antipodal cells from adopting central cell fate. These findings show how egg cells orchestrate differentiation of the embryo sac.
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