The fertilization-related kinase 1 (ScFRK1), a nuclear-localized mitogen-activated protein kinase kinase kinase (MAPKKK) from the wild potato species Solanum chacoense, belongs to a small group of pMEKKs that do not possess an extended N- or C-terminal regulatory domain. Initially selected based on its highly specific expression profile following fertilization, in situ expression analyses revealed that the ScFRK1 gene is also expressed early on during female gametophyte development in the integument and megaspore mother cell and, later, in the synergid and egg cells of the embryo sac. ScFRK1 mRNAs are also detected in pollen mother cells. Transgenic plants with lower or barely detectable levels of ScFRK1 mRNAs lead to the production of small fruits with severely reduced seed set, resulting from a concomitant decline in the number of normal embryo sacs produced. Megagametogenesis and microgametogenesis were affected, as megaspores did not progress beyond the functional megaspore (FG1) stage and the microspore collapsed around the first pollen mitosis. As for other mutants that affect embryo sac development, pollen tube guidance was severely affected in the ScFRK1 transgenic lines. Gametophyte to sporophyte communication was also affected, as observed from a marked change in the transcriptomic profiles of the sporophytic tissues of the ovule. The ScFRK1 MAPKKK is thus involved in a signalling cascade that regulates both male and female gamete development.
Keywords: Embryo sac development; MAPKKK; Solanaceae.; gametophyte to sporophyte communication; megagametogenesis; microgametogenesis; pollen tube guidance; seed and fruit development.
© The Author 2015. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Society for Experimental Biology.