Maternal-filial transfer structures in endosperm: A nexus of nutritional dynamics and seed development

Curr Opin Plant Biol. 2021 Nov 18;65:102121. doi: 10.1016/j.pbi.2021.102121. Online ahead of print.


Although the ultimate purpose of a seed is the successful establishment of the next generation, seed development involves more than embryo growth. In angiosperms, seed development requires the intimate coordination of three distinct entities - maternal tissue and two offspring, embryo and embryo-nourishing endosperm. Although seeds are cornerstones of many terrestrial ecosystems and human diets, we are only beginning to understand the interactions among seed tissues and the molecular processes and genes that determine them. Recent studies of gene expression and function in distantly related angiosperms, combined with over 100 years of embryological research, have repeatedly highlighted the endosperm associated with maternal-filial boundaries as a central point in seed developmental dynamics. In this review, we highlight evidence that links this zone with nutritional dynamics, developmental signaling, and imprinted gene expression. We suggest that the underappreciated diversity of this specialized endosperm across angiosperms deserves further study from developmental, molecular, and genetic perspectives.

Keywords: Chalazal endosperm; Developmental signaling; Endosperm; Endosperm transfer region; Gene imprinting; Haustoria; Seed development.

Publication types

  • Review