A PARTHENOGENESIS allele from apomictic dandelion can induce egg cell division without fertilization in lettuce

Underwood, Charles J.; Vijverberg, Kitty; Rigola, Diana; Okamoto, Shunsuke; Oplaat, Carla; Den Camp, Rik H.M. Op; Radoeva, Tatyana; Schauer, Stephen E.; Fierens, Joke; Jansen, Kim; Mansveld, Sandra; Busscher, Marco; Xiong, Wei; Datema, Erwin; Nijbroek, Koen; Blom, Evert-Jan; Bicknell, Ross; Catanach, Andrew; Erasmuson, Sylvia; Winefield, Christopher; Tunen, Arjen J. Van; Prins, Marcel; Schranz, Eric; Dijk, Peter J. Van


Apomixis, the clonal formation of seeds, is a rare yet widely distributed trait in flowering plants. We have isolated the PARTHENOGENESIS (PAR) gene from apomictic dandelion that triggers embryo development in unfertilized egg cells. PAR encodes a K2-2 zinc finger, EAR-domain protein. Unlike the recessive sexual alleles, the dominant PAR allele is expressed in egg cells and has a miniature inverted-repeat transposable element (MITE) transposon insertion in the promoter. The MITE-containing promoter can invoke a homologous gene from sexual lettuce to complement dandelion LOSS OF PARTHENOGENESIS mutants. A similar MITE is also present in the promoter of the PAR gene in apomictic forms of hawkweed, suggesting a case of parallel evolution. Heterologous expression of dandelion PAR in lettuce egg cells induced haploid embryo-like structures in the absence of fertilization. Sexual PAR alleles are expressed in pollen, suggesting that the gene product releases a block on embryogenesis after fertilization in sexual species while in apomictic species PAR expression triggers embryogenesis in the absence of fertilization.