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Keywords:

  • apospory;
  • diplospory;
  • embryology;
  • evolution -parthenogenesis;
  • phylogeny;
  • polyploidy;
  • pseudogamy

Apomicts that produce unreduced parthenogenetic eggs are generally polyploid and occur in at least 33 of 460 families of angiosperms. Embryo sacs of these apomicts form precociously from ameiotic megaspore mother cells (diplospory) or adjacent somatic cells (apospory). Polysporic species (bisporic and tetrasporic) are sexual and occur in at least 88 families. Their embryo sacs also form precociously, but only non-critical portions of meiosis are affected. It is hypothesized that (i) the partial to complete replacement of meiosis by embryo sac formation in apomictic and polysporic species results from asynchronously-expressed duplicate genes that control female development, (ii) duplicate genes result from polyploidy or paleopolyploidy (diploidized polyploidy with chromatin from multiple genomes), (iii) apomixis results from competition between nearly complete sets of asynchronously-expressed duplicate genes, and (iv) polyspory and polyembryony result from competition between incomplete sets of asynchronously-expressed duplicate genes. Phylogenetic and genomic studies were conducted to evaluate this hypothesis. Apomictic, polysporic, and polyembryonic species tended to occur together in cosmopolitan families in which temporal variation in female development is expected, apomicts were generally polyploid with few chromosomes per genome (X = 9.6pL0.4 SE), and polysporic and polyembryonic species were paleopolyploid with many chromosomes per genome (x= 15.7pL0.6 and 13.2pL0.4, respectively). These findings support the proposed duplicate-gene asynchrony hypothesis and further suggest asexual reproduction in apomicts preserves primary genomes, sexual reproduction in polysporic and polyembryonic polyploids accelerates paleopolyploidization, and pa-leopolyploidization may sometimes eliminate gene duplications required for apomixis while retaining duplications required for polyspory or polyembryony. Hence, apomixis, with its long-term reproductive stability, may occasionally serve as an evolutionary springboard in the evolution of normal and developmentally-novel paleopolyploid sexual species and genera.