New discovery about how plants make sex cells for reproduction

New discovery about how plants make sex cells for reproduction

Scientists at Stanford have built a detailed timeline of the gene activity leading up to meiosis in corn, a finding with potential implications for plant breeding as well as sexually reproductive organisms more broadly.

Birds do it. Bees do it. Plants do it, too. And for good reason: Sexual reproduction has evolved as nature’s way of shuffling the genetic deck of cards, so to speak. That shuffling actually starts before organisms make sex cells (sperm and egg). In this process, called meiosis, matching chromosomes inherited from an organism’s mother and father swap sections, yielding cells that are genetically distinct from either parent. This genetic rejiggering churns out diverse combos of traits that can be “winning hands” for offspring, giving them a competitive advantage. 

Compared to animals, however, just how plants enter into this meiotic shuffling is poorly understood. As embryos, animals dedicate a so-called germ line of cells for future meiosis, but plants delay recruiting cells until very late in development, and even then, they assign the job to just a handful of cells inside each flower.

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