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The formation of unisexual flowers in maize requires the selective elimination and sexual maturation of floral organs in an initially bisexual floral meristem. Elimination of pistil primordia occurs in the primary and secondary florets of the tassel spikelets, and in the secondary florets of ear spikelets. Ill-fated pistil cells undergo a cell death process associated with nuclear degeneration in a specific spatial-temporal pattern that begins in the subepidermis, eventually aborting the entire organ. The sex determination genes tasselseed1 and tasselseed2 are required for death of pistil cells. tasselseed1 is required for the accumulation of TASSELSEED2 mRNA in pistil cells. All pistil primordia express TASSELSEED2 RNA but functional pistils found in ear spikelets are protected from cell death by the action of the silkless1 gene. silkless1 blocks tasselseed-induced cell death in the pistil primordia of primary ear florets. A model is proposed for the control of pistil fate by the action of the ts1-ts2-sk1 pathway.


A Calderon-Urrea, S L Dellaporta. Cell death and cell protection genes determine the fate of pistils in maize. Development (Cambridge, England). 1999 Feb;126(3):435-41

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PMID: 9876173

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