Evidence from confocal microscopic reconstruction of maize anther development in fertile, mac1 (excess germ cells), and msca1 (no germ cells) flowers indicates that the male germ line is multiclonal and uses the MAC1 protein to organize the somatic niche. Furthermore, we identified redox status as a determinant of germ cell fate, defining a mechanism distinct from the animal germ cell lineage. Decreasing oxygen or H(2)O(2) increases germ cell numbers, stimulates superficial germ cell formation, and rescues germinal differentiation in msca1 flowers. Conversely, oxidizing environments inhibit germ cell specification and cause ectopic differentiation in deeper tissues. We propose that hypoxia, arising naturally within growing anther tissue, acts as a positional cue to set germ cell fate.