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Keywords:

  • cereals;
  • fertility;
  • flower;
  • gametophyte–sporophyte interactions;
  • gene expression;
  • sexual reproduction

Summary

  • Owing to its evolutional plasticity and adaptability, barley (Hordeum vulgare) is one of the most widespread crops in the world. Despite this evolutionary success, sexual reproduction of small grain cereals is poorly investigated, making discovery of novel genes and functions a challenging priority. Barley gene Jekyll appears to be a key player in grain development; however, its role in flowers has remained unknown.
  • Here, we studied RNAi lines of barley, where Jekyll expression was repressed to different extents. The impact of Jekyll on flower development was evaluated based on differential gene expression analysis applied to anthers and gynoecia of wildtype and transgenic plants, as well as using isotope labeling experiments, hormone analysis, immunogold- and TUNEL-assays and in situ hybridization.
  • Jekyll is expressed in nurse tissues mediating gametophyte–sporophyte interaction in anthers and gynoecia, where JEKYLL was found within the intracellular membranes. The repression of Jekyll impaired pollen maturation, anther dehiscence and induced a significant loss of fertility. The presence of JEKYLL on the pollen surface also hints at possible involvement in the fertilization process.
  • We conclude that the role of Jekyll in cereal sexual reproduction is clearly much broader than has been hitherto realized.