The plant life cycle alternates between two genetically active generations: the diploid sporophyte and the haploid gametophyte. In angiosperms the gametophytes are sexually dimorphic and consist of only a few cells. The female gametophyte, or embryo sac, is comprised of four cell types: two synergids, an egg cell, a central cell, and a variable number of antipodal cells. In some species the antipodal cells are indistinct and fail to proliferate, so many aspects of antipodal cell function and development have been unclear. In maize and many other grasses, the antipodal cells proliferate to produce a highly distinct cluster at the chalazal end of the embryo sac that persists at the apex of the endosperm after fertilization. The antipodal cells are a site of auxin accumulation in the maize embryo sac. Analysis of different families of genes involved in auxin biosynthesis, distribution, and signaling for expression in the embryo sac demonstrates that all steps are expressed within the embryo sac. In contrast to auxin signaling, cytokinin signaling is absent in the embryo sac and instead occurs adjacent to but outside of the antipodal cells. Mutant analysis shows a correlation between a loss of auxin signaling and a loss of proliferation of the antipodal cells. The leaf polarity mutant Laxmidrib1 causes a lack of antipodal cell proliferation coupled with a loss of DR5 and PIN1a expression in the antipodal cells.
Keywords: Zea mays; antipodal cells; auxin; embryo sac; gametophyte; maize.