Maize (Zea mays L.) Ufo1-1 is a spontaneous dominant mutation of the unstable factor for orange1 (ufo1). We recently cloned ufo1, which is a Poaceae-specific gene highly expressed during seed development in maize. Here, we have characterized Ufo1-1 and a loss-of-function Ds insertion allele (ufo1-Dsg) to decipher the role of ufo1 in maize. We found that both ufo1 mutant alleles impact sugars and hormones, and have defects in the basal endosperm transfer layer (BETL) and adjacent cell types. The Ufo1-1 BETL had reduced cell elongation and cell wall ingrowth, resulting in cuboidal shaped transfer cells. In contrast, the ufo1-Dsg BETL cells showed a reduced overall size with abnormal wall ingrowth. Expression analysis identified the impact of ufo1 on several genes essential for BETL development. The overexpression of Ufo1-1 in various tissues leads to ectopic phenotypes, including abnormal cell organization and stomata subsidiary cell defects. Interestingly, pericarp and leaf transcriptomes also showed that as compared with wild type, Ufo1-1 had ectopic expression of endosperm development-specific genes. This study shows that Ufo1-1 impacts the expression patterns of a wide range of genes involved in various developmental processes.
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