The Polycomb group protein MEDEA controls cell proliferation and embryonic patterning in Arabidopsis

Dev Cell. 2021 Jul 12;56(13):1945-1960.e7. doi: 10.1016/j.devcel.2021.06.004. Epub 2021 Jun 29.


Establishing the embryonic body plan of multicellular organisms relies on precisely orchestrated cell divisions coupled with pattern formation, which, in animals, are regulated by Polycomb group (PcG) proteins. The conserved Polycomb Repressive Complex 2 (PRC2) mediates H3K27 trimethylation and comes in different flavors in Arabidopsis. The PRC2 catalytic subunit MEDEA is required for seed development; however, a role for PRC2 in embryonic patterning has been dismissed. Here, we demonstrate that embryos derived from medea eggs abort because MEDEA is required for patterning and cell lineage determination in the early embryo. Similar to PcG proteins in mammals, MEDEA regulates embryonic patterning and growth by controlling cell-cycle progression through repression of CYCD1;1, which encodes a core cell-cycle component. Thus, Arabidopsis embryogenesis is epigenetically regulated by PcG proteins, revealing that the PRC2-dependent modulation of cell-cycle progression was independently recruited to control embryonic cell proliferation and patterning in animals and plants.

Keywords: Arabidopsis; H3K27me3; MEDEA; PRC2; Polycomb group; cell proliferation; cyclin; embryonic patterning; evolutionary conservation; plant development.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Arabidopsis / genetics
  • Arabidopsis / growth & development
  • Arabidopsis Proteins / genetics*
  • Body Patterning / genetics
  • Cell Proliferation / genetics
  • Cyclin D3 / genetics*
  • Flowers / genetics
  • Flowers / growth & development
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Plant / genetics
  • Histones / genetics
  • Methylation
  • Plant Development / genetics*
  • Polycomb Repressive Complex 2 / genetics
  • Polycomb-Group Proteins / genetics*
  • Seeds / genetics
  • Seeds / growth & development


  • Arabidopsis Proteins
  • CYCD1;1 protein, Arabidopsis
  • Cyclin D3
  • Histones
  • MEA protein, Arabidopsis
  • Polycomb-Group Proteins
  • Polycomb Repressive Complex 2