Epigenetic processes in flowering plant reproduction

J Exp Bot. 2017 Feb 1;68(4):797-807. doi: 10.1093/jxb/erw486.


Seeds provide up to 70% of the energy intake of the human population, emphasizing the relevance of understanding the genetic and epigenetic mechanisms controlling seed formation. In flowering plants, seeds are the product of a double fertilization event, leading to the formation of the embryo and the endosperm surrounded by maternal tissues. Analogous to mammals, plants undergo extensive epigenetic reprogramming during both gamete formation and early seed development, a process that is supposed to be required to enforce silencing of transposable elements and thus to maintain genome stability. Global changes of DNA methylation, histone modifications, and small RNAs are closely associated with epigenome programming during plant reproduction. Here, we review current knowledge on chromatin changes occurring during sporogenesis and gametogenesis, as well as early seed development in major flowering plant models.

Keywords: DNA methylation; epigenetics; histone modifications; plant reproduction; reprogramming; small RNAs..

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Arabidopsis / physiology
  • Chromatin / metabolism
  • Chromatin / physiology
  • Epigenesis, Genetic / physiology*
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Plant / genetics
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Plant / physiology
  • Genes, Plant / physiology
  • Oryza / physiology
  • Plant Physiological Phenomena* / genetics
  • Reproduction / physiology
  • Zea mays / physiology


  • Chromatin