Analysis of plant germline development by high-throughput RNA profiling: technical advances and new insights

Authors


(fax + 41 44 6348204; e-mail aschmidt@botinst.uzh.ch).

Summary

Reproduction is a crucial step in the life cycle of plants. The male and female germline lineages develop in the reproductive organs of the flower, which in higher plants are the anthers and ovules, respectively. Development of the germline lineage initiates from a dedicated sporophytic cell that undergoes meiosis to form spores that subsequently give rise to the gametophytes through mitotic cell divisions. The mature male and female gametophytes harbour the male (sperm cells) and female gametes (egg and central cell), respectively. Those unite during double fertilization to initiate embryo and endosperm development in sexually reproducing higher plants. While cytological changes involved in development of the germline lineages have been well characterized in a number of species, investigation of the transcriptional basis underlying their development and the specification of the gametes proved challenging. This is largely due to the inaccessibility of the cells constituting the germline lineages, which are enclosed by sporophytic tissues. Only recently, these technical limitations could be overcome by combining new methods to isolate the relevant cells with powerful transcriptional profiling methods, such as microarrays or high-throughput sequencing of RNA. This review focuses on these technical advances and the new insights gained from them concerning the transcriptional basis and molecular mechanisms underlying germline development.

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