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The cereal caryopsis is a complex tissue in which maternal and endosperm tissues follow distinct but coordinated developmental programs. Because of the hexaploid genome in wheat (Triticum aestivum), the identification of genes involved in key developmental processes by genetic approaches has been difficult. To bypass this limitation, we surveyed 888 genes that are expressed during caryopsis development using a novel high-throughput mRNA in situ hybridization method. This survey revealed novel distinct spatial expression patterns that either reflected the ontogeny of the developing caryopsis or indicated specialized cellular functions. We have identified both known and novel genes whose expression is cell cycle-dependent. We have identified the crease region as important in setting up the developmental patterning, because the transition from proliferation to differentiation spreads from this region to the rest of the endosperm. A comparison of this set of genes with the rice (Oryza sativa) genome shows that approximately two-thirds have rice counterparts but also suggests considerable divergence with regard to proteins involved in grain filling. We found that the wheat genes had significant homology with 350 Arabidopsis thaliana genes. At least 25 of these are already known to be essential for seed development in Arabidopsis, but many others remain to be characterized.

Original publication




Journal article


Plant Cell

Publication Date





2172 - 2185


Cell Cycle, Cell Division, Gene Expression Regulation, Plant, Genome, Plant, Ploidies, Transcription, Genetic, Triticum