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In their recent publication, John Fowler, Associate Professor in BPP, was a key contributor to a multi-institution collaborative group (including OSU, Iowa State University and the Carnegie Institution) characterizing the transcriptomes of the gametophyte stages of Zea mays (corn), in a study published in Genome Biology.  Although only present for a short time and microscopic in size, the gametophyte stages (male and female) are crucial for sexual reproduction in plants.  The male gametophyte (pollen) brings sperm cells to the egg, produced by the female gametophyte, buried within the flower.  The union of egg and sperm is required for production of seeds and fruit in nearly all plants, including many crop species (e.g., corn).  However, despite their importance, the genetics and transcriptional programs of gametophytes, particularly the difficult-to-access female gametophyte, have remained relatively unknown.  The study by Chettoor et al. (including Fowler and lab members Rex Cole and Zuzana Vejlupkova) helps address this deficit, discovering novel gametophytic transcripts, as well as genetic functions that are critical in either male or female gametophytes for their proper functioning.  The data in the study also suggest that evolutionary selection on genetic functions in the male gametophyte can have a disproportionate affect on plant genomes, as pollen-associated transcription in maize is correlated with a higher number of duplicate genes than transcription in seedlings or female gametophytes.  The study lays the groundwork for a more comprehensive understanding of the genetic programs and functions that enable successful sexual reproduction in plants.

Discovery of novel transcripts and gametophytic functions via RNA-Seq analysis of maize gametophytic transcriptomes. Antony M. Chettoor, Scott A. Givan, Rex A. Cole, Clayton T. Coker, Erica Unger-Wallace, Zuzana Vejlupkova, Erik Vollbrecht, John E. Fowler and Matthew M. S. Evans. Genome Biology 2014, 15:414

John Fowler's web page

Maize Gametophyte Project