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Plant biologists discover gene that switches on 'essence of male'
Date:3/19/2009

Biologists at the University of Leicester have published results of a new study into plant sex and discovered that a particular gene switches on 'the essence of male'.

The study takes to a new level understanding of the genes needed for successful plant reproduction and seed production.

Professor David Twell and colleagues in the Department of Biology at the University of Leicester reported the discovery of a gene that has a critical role in allowing precursor reproductive cells to divide to form twin sperm cells.

Their study is reported in the journal Public Library of Science Genetics (PLoS Genetics) and was funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC).

Professor Twell said: "Flowering plants, unlike animals require not one, but two sperm cells for successful fertilisation. One sperm cell to join with the egg cell to produce the embryo and the other to join with the central cell to produce the nutrient-rich endosperm tissue inside the seed. A mystery in this 'double fertilisation' process was how each single pollen grain could produce the pair of sperm cells needed for fertility and seed production.

"We now report the discovery of a dual role for DUO1, a regulatory gene required for plant sperm cell production. We show that the DUO1 gene is required to promote the division of sperm precursor cells, while at the same time promoting their specialised function as sperm cells. It effectively switches on the essence of male.

"We show that DUO1 is required for the expression of a key protein that controls cell division and for the expression of genes that are critical for gamete differentiation and fertilisation.

"This work provides the first molecular insight into the mechanisms through which cell cycle progression and gamete differentiation are coordinated in flowering plants.

"This knowledge will be helpful in understanding the mechanism
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Contact: Professor David Twell
twe@le.ac.uk
01-162-522-281
University of Leicester
Source:Eurekalert  

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