International Team of Researchers Discover Plant Gene Crucial to Production of Clonal Seeds
Researchers from KeyGene and Wageningen University & Research (WUR),
together with colleagues from Japanese breeding company Takii and New
Zealand's Plant & Food Research and Lincoln University have discovered
agenethat makes it possible to produce seeds from crops that are
genetically identical to the mother plant and that do not need pollination.
The gene found was named PAR, from parthenogenesis, the process where
egg cells grow into plant embryos without fertilization. The team at
KeyGene in the Netherlands started to unravel the genetics behind
apomixis in the early-2000s. In 2016, they discovered the DIP gene the
gene for diplospory, one of the two steps involved in apomixis. They
used dandelion in their research, one of around 400 wild plant species
known to reproduce by apomixis.
At Lincoln University and Plant & Food Research in New Zealand,
researchers also studied parthenogenesis genesand focused on hawkweed.
Hawkweeds and dandelions come from the same plant family so the New
Zealand researchers compared the PAR gene with the genes of hawkweed and
found the same observation in dandelions. While all plants contain PAR
genes, the plants with apomixis had an extra piece of DNA in the gene
and appear to be in almost the same place in the hawkweed as in dandelion.
Further analysis revealed that the extra piece of DNA is a transposon.
The team has also used the knowledge behind apomixis to breed crops with
superior seeds. Although most plants do not use apomixis, most have
genes similar to PAR and DIP, suggesting that apomixis could be widely
applicable for innovative agriculture by using modern tools like gene
editing. KeyGene researchers, together with scientists of Takii Seed
have already succeeded in showing that the PAR gene can cause
parthenogenesis in both lettuce and sunflower.
Gene discovered crucial to making crop plants produce clonal seeds - WUR