A genetic trick allows induction of haploid maize plants by a process known as gynogenesis, which is a useful tool for breeders. In this issue of The EMBO Journal, Gilles et al (2017) show that loss of function of a patatin‐like phospholipase A underlies the induction of gynogenesis, findings that were also made in two other recent studies (Kelliher et al, 2017; Liu et al, 2017).
See also: L Gilles et al (March 2017)
Plant reproduction is characterized by an “alternation of generations”—the dominant diploid sporophyte phase in higher plants is punctuated by short, multicellular haploid phases in male and female gametophytes buried within the flowers. Double fertilization produces two major structures, the diploid embryo, and triploid endosperm, a nutritive tissue for the embryo. Crop breeders rely on recombination events that occur during plant sexual reproduction to shuffle alleles and optimize agronomic traits, such as yield, and resistance to stresses and pests. For some crops, however, a very significant boost can also be obtained using F1 hybrids that rely on “hybrid vigor” or heterosis to produce yields far surpassing the parental strains (Shull, 1948). The production of stable, uniform hybrids relies on the ability to make different inbred lines, which can take several years, as it requires multiple generations of self‐crossing. To overcome this time constraint, maize breeders use a genetic trick discovered in the 1950's by Ed Coe …
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