Apomixis in hawkweed: Mendel's experimental nemesis.

Journal of experimental botany

PubMedID: 21335438

Koltunow AM, Johnson SD, Okada T. Apomixis in hawkweed: Mendel's experimental nemesis. J Exp Bot. 2011;62(5):1699-707.
Mendel used hawkweeds and other plants to verify the laws of inheritance he discovered using Pisum. Trait segregation was not evident in hawkweeds because many form seeds asexually by apomixis. Meiosis does not occur during female gametophyte formation and the mitotically formed embryo sacs do not require fertilization for seed development. The resulting progeny retain a maternal genotype. Hawkweeds in Hieracium subgenus Pilosella form mitotic embryo sacs by apospory. The initiation of sexual reproduction is required to stimulate apospory in ovules and to promote the function of the dominant locus, LOSS OF APOMEIOSIS, which stimulates the differentiation of somatic aposporous initial (AI) cells near sexually programmed cells. As AI cells undergo nuclear mitosis the sexual pathway terminates. The function of the dominant locus LOSS OF PARTHENOGENESIS in aposporous embryo sacs enables fertilization-independent embryo and endosperm development. Deletion of either locus results in partial reversion to sexual reproduction, and loss of function in both loci results in reversion to sexual development. In these apomicts, sexual reproduction is therefore the default reproductive mode upon which apomixis is superimposed. These loci are unlikely to encode factors critical for sexual reproduction but might recruit the sexual pathway to enable apomixis. Incomplete functional penetrance of these dominant loci is likely to lead to the generation of rare sexual progeny also derived from these facultative apomicts.