Researchers at Wageningen, together with colleagues from Japan and New Zealand, have discovered a gene that ensures that embryos can develop in the ovary of plants without the flowers being pollinated.
This invention of this key gene will make it possible in the future to produce seeds for crops that are genetically identical to the mother plant. The discovery was published in New Zealand by researchers at the Dutch research company KeyGene and Wageningen University & Research, in collaboration with researchers at the Japanese breeding company Takii and Lincoln University in New Zealand. the scientific journal Nature Genetics.
The gene found was given the name PAR, after the process of parthenogenesis controlled by the gene. The eggs turn into plant embryos without pollination. The researchers expect this discovery to lead to important innovations in plant breeding in the years to come.
Apomixis as a holy grail
The production of seeds that are genetically identical to the mother plant is called apomixis. According to scientists from Wageningen, this phenomenon is considered the holy grail of agriculture. It helps to capture unique and superior combinations of properties in a plant in one go. Apomixis can therefore speed up the selection of innovative crops and make seed production cheaper.
The importance of apomixis for agriculture has long been recognized, but so far it has not been possible to apply it successfully in breeding. Over fifteen years ago, a team of researchers from the Wageningen KeyGene research company began to clarify the genetics behind apomixis.
In their research on apomixis, the KeyGene researchers used dandelions, a plant species known to produce seeds with the same genetic properties as the mother plant without pollination. The PAR gene found in dandelions has been shown to ensure that eggs can develop into a plant embryo without pollination.
The egg develops without pollination
The Biosystematics Chair Group of Wageningen University and Research also participated in the research. Employees in this group of presidents discovered that the PAR gene is normally turned off in eggs, but is turned on in asexual dandelions. The egg then divides, creating a plant embryo. So this egg thinks it has been fertilized and begins to divide without pollination taking place.
The next question is whether the dandelion PAR gene and new knowledge about apomixis can be used for other crops. Many plants without apomixis have genes similar to the dandelion PAR gene. KeyGene researchers have already successfully demonstrated, together with scientists at Takii, that the PAR gene can also induce parthenogenesis in lettuce and sunflower.
“Devoted bacon guru. Award-winning explorer. Internet junkie. Web lover.”