The Genetic Control of Apomixis: Asexual Seed Formation
Melanie L. Hand, Anna M. G. Koltunow

Abstract

Apomixis (asexual seed formation) is the result of a plant gaining the ability to bypass the most fundamental aspects of sexual reproduction: meiosis and fertilization. Without the need for male fertilization, the resulting seed germinates a plant that develops as a maternal clone. This dramatic shift in reproductive process has been documented in many flowering plant species, although no major seed crops have been shown to be capable of apomixis. The ability to generate maternal clones and therefore rapidly fix desirable genotypes in crop species could accelerate agricultural breeding strategies. The potential of apomixis as a next-generation breeding technology has contributed to increasing interest in the mechanisms controlling apomixis. In this review, we discuss the progress made toward understanding the genetic and molecular control of apomixis. Research is currently focused on two fronts. One aims to identify and characterize genes causing apomixis in apomictic species that have been developed as model species. The other aims to engineer or switch the sexual seed formation pathway in non-apomictic species, to one that mimics apomixis. Here we describe the major apomictic mechanisms and update knowledge concerning the loci that control them, in addition to presenting candidate genes that may be used as tools for switching the sexual pathway to an apomictic mode of reproduction in crops.

  • Received February 16, 2014.
  • Accepted March 31, 2014.
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