- Polycomb group (PcG) proteins are gene repressors that help to maintain cellular identity during development via chromatin remodeling. Fertilization-independent endosperm (FIE), a member of the PcG complex, operates extensively in plant development, but its role in rice has not been fully investigated to date.
- We report the isolation and characterization of a PcG member in rice, which was designated OsFIE2 for Oryza sativa Fertilization-Independent Endosperm 2. OsFIE2 is a single-copy gene in the rice genome and shows a universal expression pattern.
- The OsFIE2 RNAi lines displayed pleiotropic phenotypes in vegetative and reproductive organ generation. In unfertilized lines, endosperm formation could be triggered without embryo formation, which indicates that FIE is indeed involved in the suppression of autonomous endosperm development in rice. Furthermore, lateral root generation was promoted early in the roots of OsFIE2 RNAi lines, whereas the primary root was premature and highly differentiated. As the root tip stem cell differentiated, QHB, the gene required for stem cell maintenance in the quiescent center, was down-regulated.
- Our data suggest that the OsFIE2–PcG complex is vital for rice reproduction and endosperm formation. Its role in stem cell maintenance suggests that the gene is functionally conserved in plants as well as animals.