Analysis of stunter1, a Maize Mutant with Reduced Gametophyte Size and Maternal Effects on Seed Development
Allison R. Phillips, Matthew M. S. Evans


Many higher eukaryotes have evolved strategies for the maternal control of growth and development of their offspring. In higher plants this is achieved in part by post-meiotic gene activity controlling the development of the haploid female gametophyte. stunter1 (stt1) is a novel, recessive, maternal effect mutant in maize that displays viable, miniature kernels. Maternal inheritance of stt1 results in seeds with reduced but otherwise normal endosperms and embryos. The stt1 mutation displays reduced transmission through the male and female parents and causes significant changes in the sizes of both male and female gametophytes. stt1 pollen grains are smaller than wild type, have reduced germination efficiency, and reduced pollen tube growth. stt1 embryo sacs have smaller central cells and abnormal antipodal cells that are larger, more vacuolated, and fewer in number than wild type. Embryos and endosperms produced by fertilization of stt1 embryo sacs develop and grow more slowly than wild type. The data suggest that the morphology of mutant embryo sacs influences endosperm development, leading to the production of miniature kernels in stt1. Analysis of seeds carrying a mutant maternal allele of stt1 over a deletion of the paternal allele demonstrates that both parental alleles are active after fertilization in both the endosperm and embryo. This analysis also indicates that embryo development until the globular stage in maize can proceed without endosperm development and is likely supported directly by the diploid mother plant.

  • Received November 17, 2010.
  • Accepted January 14, 2011.